SIPTU Big Start Campaign activists have welcomed a call by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, for workers in the sector to join a union which was made at the Kennedy Summer School, New Ross, County Wexford, this evening (Thursday, 7th September). SIPTU Sector Organiser and Big Start Co-ordinator, Darragh O’Connor, said: “The call comes as the Big Start Campaign is organising Early Years educators across the country to demand greater state investment in the sector, along with improvements in quality, affordability and workers’ pay. “Our activists very much welcome the call by the minister for childcare workers to join a union. It is no coincidence that a sector which overwhelmingly employs women is undervalued, underpaid and under-recognised. Early Years educators know that by organising into a union they can win recognition, decent wages and increased investment.”   SIPTU Organiser, Shonagh Byrne, said: “The currently precarious and low paid nature of work in the Early Years sector is leading to a worker recruitment and retention crisis. Many qualified educators are leaving a job they love because they can no longer afford to work for a low wage. This, in turn, is undermining the drive for quality education and care in the sector.   “If we want high quality childcare that supports the development of children, we need a qualified workforce who are paid a decent wage. The way this can be achieved is by workers in the sector joining a union as the minister, Katherine Zappone, has recommended.” Early Years educator and SIPTU activist, Claire Casey, said: “The job of an Early Years educator is to provide quality education and care to children. It is just not sustainable to do this while educators are on an average wage rate of just €10.27 per hour and many are on precarious 15-hour a week, 38-weeks a year contracts.” For more information on the Big Start Campaign see or visit the Big Start Campaign Facebook Page.