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Parents face threat of more crèche closures as staff protests start

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More than 1,600 childcare providers are expected to take to the streets during the march from Parnell Square to Government Buildings. (stock image)

More than 1,600 childcare providers are expected to take to the streets during the march from Parnell Square to Government Buildings. (stock image)

More than 1,600 childcare providers are expected to take to the streets during the march from Parnell Square to Government Buildings. (stock image)

Parents face the prospect of more crèche closures as further rallies are threatened following a national protest by childcare providers and staff in Dublin today.

Siptu head of organising Darragh O'Connor warned today's demonstration is "just another step" in a campaign for recognition for staff, decent pay and funding.

"There are many more days like this to come," he said.

Although it is not an official strike, the fact it is taking place during working hours means many crèches will shut their doors.

More than 1,600 childcare providers, from a total of more than 4,000, are expected to take to the streets during the march from Parnell Square to Government Buildings. Parents who back the campaign are also expected to attend.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs had threatened to pull funding for crèche owners who shut without allowing them to make up the loss by opening another day.

Minister Katherine Zappone later did a U-turn on the policy after an outcry from providers.

Some who felt they could not afford to close complained this came too late as they had already informed parents.

One childcare provider said she does not believe a "strike" is the answer to the childcare crisis.

"While there is an urgent need for improvements across many different areas, including inadequate pay for childcare workers, we cannot push this agenda at the cost of the children we care for," said Karen Clince, owner of Tigers Childcare, who has also acted as an adviser to government bodies and voluntary groups.

"We are not in support of strike action because best outcomes for children should be at the heart of everything we do."

She said an increase in State investment needs to be addressed as a priority to bring it in line with OECD average investment of 0.8pc of GDP.

This could deliver value for money, she said, by linking funding to inspection performance.

"A childcare provider should only be eligible for funding once it meets a certain quality rating," she said. "Those that qualify should also be required to sign up to a fair pay scale, ensuring that any additional funding is passed on to staff through better wages."

Meanwhile, a Siptu review of the political parties' election manifestos claims neither Fianna Fáil nor Fine Gael has committed to improving pay.

It said most early years educators earn less than €12.50 an hour.

A department spokesperson said it has advised parents to ask their provider if they are taking part in the protest and, if so, whether they are putting any measures in place to support them.

Irish Independent