SIPTU representatives have called on the Government to ensure a graduate led workforce with decent pay and conditions is essential in order to attract and retain professionals in the child care sector. The union has also called for a full Garda and Tusla investigation into revelations of serious abuse of children in a Dublin creche city chain which were broadcast on the RTE Prime Time Investigates documentary last night (Wednesday 24th July).SIPTU Head of Organising and Campaigns, Darragh O’Connor, said that the appalling conditions exposed in the Hyde and Seek creche chain in Dublin highlight, once more, the dangers for children when facilities are run on the basis of maximising profits rather than in the interests of children, parents and staff. “The revelations from the programme last night have caused untold stress and worry to parents and families across the country. It has also distressed thousands of childcare workers who strive to deliver the highest standards of care and learning to the children they work with every day,” he said.. “That some workers in the programme did not know what crucial terms such as SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) stands for indicates that we still have a highly dysfunctional sector where people who are not properly trained are looking after the most venerable members of our society. “We must move towards a workforce led by graduates in Early Childhood Care and Education, with ongoing training and professional development for all workers. The priority must be to attract and retain dedicated staff who are committed to putting children’s needs first pay. At present, Early Years educators, on average, earn just €11.18 per hour, which is €1.12 less than the Living Wage. This means that many are struggling to make ends meet and are being forced to leave jobs they love and for which they have expertise. “Being part of union also ensures that workers feel more able to voice concerns about their workplace without being victimised. The crèches featured in the RTÉ programme are non-union workplaces where workers may have felt they were not in a strong position to confront bad management practices.” He added: “When milk is being watered down, children are being fed 12 cent noodles and when a single staff member is left looking after 18 babies, as we saw in last night’s programme, it’s very clear that the focus of the service is on profit and not on quality. “We need a serious conversation about the future of the Early Years sector, and decisions need to be taken about the direction of government policy. Do we wish to see childcare provision based on a corporate-driven model that’s about maximising profits while still reliant on public funds or is it about putting quality at the heart of the system?” The SIPTU Big Start Campaign organises almost 5,000 workers within the sector and is committed to working with the Government, providers and parents for the creation of a high quality, affordable, accessible Early Years sector with quality jobs.