SIPTU Big Start campaign representatives have said that the announcement today (Monday, 21st June) that a Joint Labour Committee (JLC) for the Early Years sector is to come into effect on Thursday, 1st July, is good news for workers, families and services. SIPTU Head of Strategic Organising and Campaigns, Darragh O’Connor, said: “The Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English, has today formally accepted the recommendation of the Labour Court for the establishment of a JLC for the Early Years sector. This body will bring together representatives of employers and workers in the sector to agree minimum pay, terms and conditions of employment in all Early Years services. “The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated just how critically important the Early Years sector is for families and the wider economy. Workers who deliver the service have been on the frontline throughout the pandemic and deserve to be treated as professionals in line with the qualifications they hold. The establishment of a JLC for the sector marks a significant milestone in the Big Start campaign for professional pay and improved terms and conditions for those employed in Early Years services.”   He added: “The Government must now address the low pay crisis in the sector in its upcoming budget and put childcare professionals on a path to receiving pay parity with similar professionals.”     Deborah Reynolds, an Early Years educator in county Galway, said: “I'm delighted to see for the first time, our sector properly acknowledged and valued by the Government, through the establishment of a JLC. It's been a long road for myself and my colleagues who have campaigned for this measure but it's been worth it. The pay talks within the JLC have the potential to change people's lives for the better.”  She added: “We can chalk down 2021 as the year workers in our sector finally got a chair at the negotiation table and achieved the recognition we've long deserved.”