Responding to the announcement today, 24th April, of the results of the Citizens Assembly on Gender Equality, SIPTU members have welcomed its ‘priority recommendation’ on the establishment of a legal right to collective bargaining for workers in all sectors. The Union has further welcomed the priority recommendations in relation to public funding for the early years education and care sector; improved pay and working conditions for care workers; an increase in the minimum wage to the living wage along with measures to help workers to balance care and work responsibilities. SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, Ethel Buckley, highlighted the recommendation that the right of workers to engage in collective bargaining as a means of improving their wages, working conditions, rights and employment security be enshrined in Irish law. She said: “SIPTU prioritised the introduction of the legal right to collective bargaining as a means of tackling economic inequality between women and men in our submission to the Citizens Assembly. We are glad that the citizens took on board our proposals on collective bargaining as a legal right. “Indeed, it is difficult to see how their recommendation that the hourly gender pay gap be reduced from its current rate of 14% to 9% by 2025 and 4% by 2030, with a view to eliminating it altogether by 2035, can become a reality if women workers in Ireland continue to be denied the right to engage in collective bargaining.” Ms Buckley also welcomed the Citizens Assembly’s recommendations in relation to childcare and care work, both paid and unpaid. “The care of children, older and vulnerable people is highly gendered. The overwhelming majority of carers of children in the home are women. 98% of employees in the early years education and care sector are women as are the majority of care workers in the health service. In addition, women undertake 65 percent of all unpaid care in the home.” “The recommendation that Ireland moves to a publicly funded, accessible and regulated model of quality, affordable early years and out of hours childcare and that the State’s spend on childcare as a percentage of GDP should increase from the current 0.37% to 1% in the coming years, is most welcome. A publicly funded and suitably resourced childcare model has been a long-standing campaigning priority for SIPTU members employed in that sector” she said. “The recommendations to improve the terms and conditions of employment for those in paid employment as carers, including access to adequate pensions is welcome as is the recommendation that a solution is finally found for those women whose state pension provision was devastated by the marriage bar. “The recommendation to introduce a statutory right to reasonable access to flexible working and paid leave for parents covering the first year of a child’s life would be a positive step in helping workers reconcile their care, work and leisure requirements. The proposals regarding women’s work, workplaces, pay and conditions and the legal right to bargain collectively have the potential to really transform the lives of working women.  We call on the Government to prioritise their implementation without delay.”