SIPTU members working as Early Years educators will be taking action on International Children’s Day, tomorrow (Thursday, 1st June), to highlight the staffing crisis facing the sector. The action by SIPTU members is in collaboration with Childcare United, a network of Early Years workers, and will see workers and their supporters sharing photos of themselves wearing red clothing on social media during the day, with the message #WhoValuesUs. Childcare United activist, Sharon Doran, said: “We are qualified educators who help children develop during their crucial formative years. However, our pay and conditions are far from those that might be expected for people who carry out such professional work. Thousands of Early Years educators are on precarious contacts that provide for just 38 weeks work a year and an average rate of pay of just €10.27 per hour. Workers in the sector are very passionate about their jobs but many just can't afford to continue working in the area.”  SIPTU Sector Organiser, Darragh O'Connor, said: “Ireland spends just 0.5% of GDP on Early Years education and care compared to the international benchmark of 1% and highs of 1.8% in Iceland, 1.6% in Sweden and 1.4% in Denmark. This means that qualified workers are earning less than the Living Wage and are struggling to make ends meet. Simply put, they don’t see a viable financial future doing the job they love. “Research shows that investing in quality Early Years education and childcare has widespread and long-lasting benefits. Children who receive quality care and education in their early years have significantly higher educational attainment, much higher earnings levels and are much less likely to get in trouble with the law. However, under-investment by successive governments has led to a staffing crisis with qualified workers leaving the sector in significant numbers.” He added: “Recent research by Early Childhood Ireland revealed the true extent of this crisis. It found that 86% of Early Years facilities fear recruitment difficulties will impact on their future viability. Overall, 49% of services were finding it difficult to retain staff. It also found that the sector had a turnover rate of 28.4% in the last 12 months.”