The SIPTU Big Start campaign has called for a focus on improving workers’ conditions and pay in order to resolve the escalating crisis in the childcare sector which is resulting in working parents being unable to find suitable facilities to care for young children. SIPTU Head of Organising, Darragh O’Connor, said: “Low pay and poor conditions for childcare professionals are at the heart of this crisis. The nature and extent of the crisis in childcare has been the focus of media attention this week but, unfortunately, it has failed to fully address the role that poor working conditions are playing in creating these problems. “Low pay and precarious contracts have led to a staff recruitment and retention crisis in Early Years services. A staff turnover in the sector of 25% per year is undermining the ability to provide services for babies and toddlers”. Early Years Educator and Big Start National Committee member, Deborah Reynolds, said: “With 43% of honours degree graduates in the sector earning below €20,000 is it any wonder that the sector has spiralled into crisis? Reports on the crisis which have placed the words childcare and lucrative into the same sentence are very misleading. The reality is that services struggle to keep their doors open across the country. Addressing affordability for parents in isolation has not and will not work.” She added: “While we welcome the roll out of the free preschool programme and fully recognise its benefits for families, we cannot continue to ignore the wider issues in the sector which are a result of a chronic underinvestment by successive governments. We must invest in our Early Years workforce if we are to have a sector which works for all.” SIPTU is the union for Early Years educators, representing over 4,000 workers and is actively campaigning, with the Big Start campaign, for  a quality and affordable childcare services with decent jobs.