Sunday 26 January 2020

Parents face crèche chaos as union considers rally during working hours

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Anne-Marie Walsh

Crèche chaos is threatened later this month as staff and providers consider a protest rally during working hours.

A senior Siptu official confirmed that a meeting will take place tomorrow to discuss a range of options in protest at "low levels of government funding, high staff turnover and low pay".

Siptu head of strategic organising Darragh O'Connor said the meeting will take place in Liberty Hall to draw up a common agenda and "set of actions", which may include a rally.

He said the move is part of a pre-election campaign to highlight issues of concern.

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"A protest is one of the options being considered during the working week, bringing together providers and educators, and services would be closing," he said.

It is unclear how many services might be affected if a rally goes ahead but union and provider groups said it is likely to be significant.

Siptu represents 5,000 staff in the sector, which is roughly a quarter of the total workforce, while groups representing hundreds of providers are involved.

Mr O'Connor said issues of concern raised at a recent meeting included a staffing crisis in terms of high turnover rates, low pay and poor levels of government funding.

In a circular sent to thousands of Siptu members and organisations on Monday, he said the union met with a number of organisations last Friday to discuss big issues facing the sector.

The groups included the Association of Childhood Professionals, the Federation of Childhood Providers, the National Community Childcare Forum, Seas Suas and the National Childhood Network.

"With a general election just around the corner, we have an opportunity to make the crisis in early childhood education care a major political issue," said Mr O'Connor, in the message on behalf of the 'Big Start National Committee' made up of representative groups in the sector.

"By working together with other groups and taking action we can help make this happen.

"We agreed to work together to develop a common platform and pre-election campaign. This includes a protest."

Elaine Dunne of the Federation of Early Childhood Providers, representing more than 1,000 members, said there is a lot of support for a rally during the working week.

"We could close for the day but have to talk about that on Thursday," she said.

"There's no point doing Saturday as it doesn't affect anybody.

"Everybody has had enough. Our parents are very supportive of us going out on a rally."

She said some crèches are set to close and she is considering putting up fees at her own crèche unless there is more government support for the sector.

However, she said this would be a last resort.

Irish Independent

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