A petition calling on the Government to increase investment in the Early Years childcare sector was launched by members of the Roscommon Big Start Campaign at a meeting held in Hannon’s Hotel, County Roscommon, on Thursday (10th May). The Big Start Campaign is focused on securing an Early Years childcare sector which produces the best outcome for children, is affordable for parents, sustainable for providers and where workers have decent pay and conditions for the professional job that they do.  SIPTU Organiser and Big Start Campaign Organiser, Anne Craughwell, said: “To deliver quality Early Years’ services for our children, we need to attract and retain qualified and competent educators. This can only be achieved if the qualifications and experience of these professionals are recognised with appropriate pay and conditions of employment.”   She added: “SIPTU is campaigning for a Sectoral Employment Order (SEO) for the Early Years sector together with increased investment. An SEO would establish minimum rates of pay and other minimum conditions for workers. However, the Government must also step up to the mark and increase spending on Early Years to the international benchmark of 1% of GDP. This is particularly necessary if we are to ensure that implementing decent pay for educators will not undermine the viability of providers in the sector.” Roscommon Big Start Campaign committee member, Amy Dowd, said: “As an Early Years educator, I see the positive impact quality childcare can have on children. However, because of low government funding many services are struggling to remain open. Qualified staff are also being paid a very low wage and are leaving the sector. Increased government investment and an SEO for the sector will ensure that workers conditions are safeguarded and improved. “An SEO can only be achieved by more Early Years educators organising in a union.  I chose to join SIPTU because it has dedicated resources in supporting professionals in the early years sector even before they have joined the union. We need to stand together and tell the Government to invest in quality childcare for our children.” Anne Craughwell added: “The Big Start Campaign is gaining momentum and making great progress in County Roscommon, with meetings taking place and educators joining together in their fight for recognition for the sector. The petition signing will continue for the coming weeks. The next Roscommon Big Start Campaign will take place in Hannon’s Hotel at 7.15 p.m. on Thursday, 14th June”