Elected representatives in Galway have been invited to attend a seminar on the crisis in the Early Years childcare sector hosted by the SIPTU Big Start Campaign in the SIPTU Offices, Forster Court, Galway, on Thursday, 29th June at 7.00 p.m SIPTU Organiser and Big Start Campaign co-ordinator, Annette Carpenter, said: “The Early Years childcare sector is in crisis. Our key message is that to deliver quality Early Years services for our children, we need to attract and retain qualified and competent educators in the sector. This can only be achieved if the qualifications and experience of these professionals is recognised with appropriate pay and conditions of employment, which necessitates adequate investment by the State.”  She added: “Those attending the seminar on behalf of the Big Start Campaign will include Early Years educators, childcare managers and providers. We are urging all Galway City councillors, TDs and Senators to attend the event in order to obtain a full understanding of the issues facing the Early Years sector.” Deborah Reynolds, an Early Years educator in East Galway, said: “I have worked hard and took out a large loan to secure a Level 7 qualification in Early Years Care and Education.  I did this in order to improve my ability to deliver the highest quality Early Years education. However, my educational achievement does nothing to improve my weekly pay cheque.”  She added: “I work in a second job every Saturday to supplement my income. I will also have to sign on at the local social welfare office for the summer, because like many Early Years educators I only have a 38-week a year contract.”   Sandra Barrins, an Early Years provider from Galway City, said: “I am embarrassed at the low level of pay I can provide to staff for only 38 weeks a year, due to a lack of Government funding. I am also angered that self-employed providers do not receive any payment while unemployed for the summer months and therefore have to live on 183 days of pay for the year with no holiday or bank holiday pay.” NUIG Early Years Studies Lecturer, Dr. Sheila Garrity, said: “We cannot have a quality Early Years sector without addressing the issues of its workforce. We need workers that are well qualified, with opportunities for continuing professional development, time for planning and to meet with parents, with conditions of employment that reflect their level of professional training and responsibilities.” For further information on the Big Start Campaign see www.bigstart.ie or visit the ‘Big Start Campaign’ Facebook Page.