Trade Union Efforts in Early Childhood Sector

Trade Union Efforts in Early Childhood Sector

Members of Early Childhood Ireland will be aware that some Trade Unions, in particular Impact and SIPTU, have been active of late within the Early Childhood Education and Care Sector.  They have held meetings and have talked with a range of organisations and individuals about the potential to organise within the sector. 

 The purpose of this note is to inform members regarding Early Childhood Ireland’s interactions with these unions, and how we see our role in the coming period. 

 

Background

>>   Early Childhood Ireland was approached separately by both Impact and SIPTU, and we met with them separately.   In those meetings we were advised of their plans for organising within the sector.

>>    For our part we outlined our perspectives on the issues and challenges that face the sector, including: the need for much greater investment by Government in early education and care; the fact that many providers have serious difficulties remaining viable and sustainable in the absence of realistic funding models; the need for greater professionalisation in the sector; the low pay that characterises the sector; over-regulation; and the inconsistent quality in the sector. 

>>   We argued that there is a clear connection between all these factors. The problems the sector faces in recruiting and retaining good staff will not be resolved without dealing with low pay.  Low pay cannot be addressed without proper and sustainable funding models for childcare being put in place.  The viability of providers depends on such funding models and ultimately, there can be no positive progression in any of these areas without significant investment by Government in childcare. 

>>   Both Unions agreed with our analysis that the problems of low pay and insecure employment conditions result from a funding model that is outside the control of providers: where Government in effect ‘sets the rate’ for supporting pre-school with inadequate funding, and where parents cannot afford to pay more than they already are.
 
>>   They also agreed on the need for Government to invest more in early education and care as the main lever for change in order to solve these problems. 

>>   These trade unions seem to be taking different approaches within the sector.  SIPTU have worked up a ‘Big Start’ campaign that they are rolling out around the country, calling for greater investment in childcare.  Impact have teamed up with ACP (the Association of Childhood Professionals) and held regional meetings, inviting people in the sector to attend. 

 

Early Childhood Ireland’s Position:

>>   We will continue to focus on our role in advocating on behalf of our members and the children and families they work with on matters that are important to them.  

>>   It is likely that there will be issues of common concern for us and trade unions.  In these cases we are happy to work with them on common ground, e.g. better funding of the sector, sustainability for settings, better pay for early childhood educators, and quality services for children and families.

>>   In accordance with our Strategic Plan, we do not see a role for Early Childhood Ireland in endorsing trade unions nor in engaging in negotiations with trade unions, nor have we done so. 

>>  We recognise that the interests of these trade unions, and any others, are not necessarily the same as those of Early Childhood Ireland. 

>>   We have strongly asserted the need to link pay and conditions with the viability and sustainability of the sector, and will continue to do so. 

>>  We will continue to keep you informed about developments.  We recognise that ‘unionisation’ is yet another new development in our sector and we would welcome any queries or feedback from you on any aspect of this. 

Please feel free to get back to us with your views or queries by emailing Dónall Geoghegan, Director of Policy and Communications, at dgeoghegan@earlychildhoodireland.ie.  

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