CHILDCARE services face the prospect of chaos 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 this Thursday 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 including a rally.
He said the move is part of a pre-election campaign to highlight issues of concern.
“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 message sent to thousands of Siptu members on Monday this week, Mr O’Connor said the union had met with the Association of Childhood Professionals, the Federation of Childhood Providers, the National Community Childcare Forum, Seas Suas and the National Childhood Network.
He said the meeting was to discuss the big issues facing the sector.
“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,” he said.
“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 Childhood Providers, representing over 1,000 providers, 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 creches are set to close and she is considering putting up her fees at her own creche unless there is more government support. Ms Dunne said high insurance costs and regulatory requirements are issues of concern.