The inaugural SIPTU – the Early Years Union conference, held in Liberty Hall on 6th April, brought together Early Years professionals and policymakers to chart a new course for the future of the sector.

Chaired by Big Start campaign activists Eilish Balfe and Aishling Silke, a major takeaway from the Our Union, Our Future conference was the real sense of commitment to improving the lives of all those working in the Early Years sector and the children they teach and care for.

While the conference didn’t shy away from the challenges faced by the sector, including stress, burnout, staffing shortages and pay, it also served as a platform for constructive dialogue and practical solutions.

A motion to campaign for a €15 minimum hourly rate of pay for Early Years Educators, with higher rates for Lead Educators and Managers, based on experience and qualifications, received strong support from the floor. As did a motion for ring-fenced Government funding for pay.

Keynote speaker, the Minister for Children, Roderic O’Gorman supported these calls and said he is committed to exploring the case for a public childcare system.

It is hoped that the conference will serve not only as a springboard for positive change but also usher in a new era of mainstreaming Early Years Educators and Managers into the structures of the union.

In his contribution, SIPTU General Secretary, Joe Cunningham, put a strong emphasis on how critically important it is to keep building union membership in every corner of the country.

Other major contributions from Dr Grainne McKenna and Tanya Ward were well received by members in what has been described as an inspiring day for Early Years workers in Liberty Hall.

Pictured above: SIPTU Early Years Educators from Longford town attending the first SIPTU – the Early Years Union conference.