In 2019, Early Childhood Ireland was delighted to be one of 28 organisations that received a grant from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission’s (IHREC) Human Rights and Equality Grants Scheme 2019. We successfully applied for funding under the theme ‘Decent Work’ for our research project: Pathways to Better Prospects: Delivering decent work, terms and conditions for early childhood workers.
We developed a research tender to contract a suitably qualified researcher and we are delighted that Dr Michelle O’Sullivan has been appointed to conduct the study. Dr O’Sullivan works at the University of Limerick and her expertise is primarily on quality of work and precarious work with particular attention on public policy. Her research has investigated zero hours work, low wage service sector jobs and wage setting in low paid jobs. She has published widely including in the British Journal of Industrial Relations, Economic and Industrial Democracy, Industrial Relations Journal and the Industrial Law Journal. She is co-author of Industrial Relations in Ireland, the primary textbook on industrial relations, and co-editor of the book “Are Trade Unions Still Relevant? Union Recognition 100 Years On”.
This research project will undertake an analysis of the professionalisation, unionisation, and formalisation of pay and conditions within other sectors in Ireland. This includes a revision of the legal mechanisms and industrial relations mechanisms that have led to equity of terms and conditions in other sectors. The study will document a baseline of where the early childhood care sector is currently – including recent developments related to the Covid-19 crisis – and identify key milestones to ensure staff have stable and secure employment. This will also consider the role of the Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty.
Research findings will be presented to national and international stakeholders and at Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Years Research Day. Moreover, the findings of this research will inform the forthcoming Workforce Development Plan by making recommendations to support an improvement in salaries, professional status, and working conditions. In other words, it will inform the government of the resources and policies necessary to secure the development of a professionalised and socially valued workforce.
Early Childhood Ireland will ensure this research contributes towards the establishment of an appropriately skilled and sustainable professional workforce that is supported and valued, reflecting the importance of their role in working with babies, young children, and their families. We anticipate that this research will ensure that staff working in the early years sector can access productive work that delivers a fair income, security in the workplace, and social protection for families.
As a membership-based organisation, Early Childhood Ireland has a commitment to a learning partnership with our membership and a close relationship with very engaged and progressive service providers and educators. In recognition of that expertise, we will facilitate a focus group comprising members representative of the diversity of our settings to inform the research report.