SIPTU members working in early childhood care and education have welcomed the establishment of an Employment Regulation Order (ERO) that sets minimum pay rates for the sector, which was signed off by the Government today (Wednesday, 7th September). The pay deal, negotiated by SIPTU Organisers and activists on behalf of the union’s 6,000 members in the sector, will set legally binding rates of pay and will come into effect on Thursday, 15thSeptember Early Years teacher and SIPTU activist, Deborah Reynolds, said: “The signing of this ERO by Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English, marks an historic day for our profession. After years of campaigning, we finally have our first pay deal. Thousands of Early Years Professionals will see a pay increase that will end poverty wages and set us on a path to professional pay and recognition.” She added: “Our profession is 98% female. We educate and care for tens of thousands of children every day yet our profession has been one of the lowest paid jobs in Ireland. Up to now a majority of Early Years Educators have earned below the Living Wage of €12.90.”  The pay terms of the ERO are financially supported by a new ‘Core Funding’ scheme which is being introduced by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. The pay deal was negotiated at the Early Years Joint Labour Committee. SIPTU organisers represented Early Years educators and managers with employers represented by the Federation of Early Childhood Providers and Childhood Services Ireland. SIPTU Head of Organising, Darragh O’Connor, said: “Low pay has caused a staffing crisis in Early Years as services struggle to recruit and retain staff. This pay deal, and future pay increases, means that Early Years professionals can plan to stay in their chosen profession in the long term. These incredible union activists and members are an example to all low paid workers and show that when you get together and organise a union you can change things for the better.  “The average rate of pay for an Early Years educators with a QQI Level 5 qualification is €11.57 per hour. This will rise to a minimum of €13 per hour. The average rate of pay for an Early Years Room Leader with a QQI Level 8 is €13.21 per hour. This will rise to a minimum of €15.50 per hour. This our first pay deal, not our last. The campaign for recognition, respect and professional pay and conditions will continue.”