SIPTU representatives have today (Thursday, 7th January) written to the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Affairs, Roderic O’Gorman, reiterating the demand of our members working as Early Years educators, for enhanced protections against Covid-19 infection. Among the key demands are mass Covid-19 testing for Early Years educators in areas of high infection, a priority vaccination programme and a wide raging risk assessment of childcare settings. SIPTU Head of Strategic Organising Darragh O’Connor, said “Early Years educators play a critical role in the fight against Covid-19. Without their efforts health professionals and other critical workers are forced to take leave to look after their children, adding further strain on essential services. “Government and employers have a duty to ensure every measure is taken to protect the health and safety of Early Years educators. “Given that social distancing is not possible when working with young children and reports that the new Covid-19 strains may infect younger people more easily than previous ones, our members believe there is a need to enhance protections for those working in childcare. “Our members are calling on the government to prioritise vaccine access for Early Years educators by placing them at the same level in the vaccination schedule as ‘key workers’. “SIPTU is also calling for the introduction of targeted mass Covid-19 testing of Early Years educators in areas with high infections rates.” O’Connor added: “Each employer must carry out a risk assessment to take into account the dramatic spike in infection rates and new Covid-19 strains. “This week, Early Years educators were praised by An Taoiseach for their efforts in the battle against Covid-19. However, without adequate protections being provided to them such praise rings hollow.”