We’re only getting started! 

Save the date: Inaugural SIPTU Early Years Conference set for Saturday 6th April. 

As Storm Isha raged across the country in late January, members of the SIPTU National Early Years Committee braved the treacherous conditions and made the trek to the capital to gather in the union’s headquarters for an inspiring day of action ahead of what will be a pivotal year for the sector.

 The vast majority of the committee are women, managers and educators from every county in Ireland who represent workers in Early Years and school age childcare.

The Early Years membership in SIPTU has steadily grown in numbers. However, the feeling among activists is that a new chapter will be written in 2024 that will define the potential for further growth in a sector long plagued by low pay and unequal working conditions.

Led by the Chairperson of the SIPTU National Committee, Avril Green, the meeting, held in the union’s prestigious National Executive Council (NEC) room, heard powerful and inspiring contributions from members who are at the coalface of the struggle for respect and recognition for all Early Years workers.

At the meeting, SIPTU Sector Organiser, Diane Jackson informed the Committee that a new pay deal for 25,000 Early Years Educators and Managers is in sight and that, after months of difficult negotiations, a 5% increase to the current minimum pay rate was recommended by the Labour Court and is now out for consultation. “Once implemented, this will be the second pay deal for child care professionals in as many years. Early Years professionals are an example of what can be achieved when workers unionise.

Just two years ago, qualified graduates were earning just €13.21 per hour on average. By later this year, they will earn a minimum of €16.28. These are just the first steps on the path to professional pay and conditions,” she said.

A third round of pay talks is expected later this year and will be supported by €21 million of additional government investment secured by the union in Budget 2024. In her extensive presentation, she also explained how several other SIPTU priorities were addressed in Budget 2024, including an Early Years DEIS model to help address inequality and educational disadvantage as well as the expansion of the Access and Inclusion Model that supports children with additional needs to access quality services.

 The political campaign for Budget 2025 is likely to kick off earlier than previous years, with local and European elections in June seen as the ideal opportunity by activists for people working in Early Years to let politicians of all persuasions and shades know where they stand when it comes to the funding of the sector and the wages for people providing this essential public service.

 Details of the inaugural SIPTU Early Years Conference were organised through a series of breakout sessions run by organisers Deborah Reynolds and Lenka Halouzkova. Set for Saturday, 6th April in the Liberty Hall theatre, the event promises to be a memorable occasion with guest addresses from Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman and SIPTU General Secretary, Joe Cunningham.

Head of Strategic Organising Darragh O’Connor said: “This will be a historic occasion for Early Year educators and managers and will mark a significant milestone for Early Years SIPTU members on the journey towards professional pay and full recognition.”