SIPTU representatives have today (Friday, 12th March) welcomed a recommendation by the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O'Gorman, that a Joint Labour Committee (JLC) for the early learning and care (ELC) and school-age childcare (SAC) sector will be established. The recommendation was made in a letter sent today from Mr O’Gorman to Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English. SIPTU Head of Organising, Darragh O'Connor, said: "If a JLC is established it will provide an opportunity for SIPTU and IBEC to engage in negotiations on an Employment Regulation Order (ERO) which could ultimately establish long-awaited binding rates of pay and conditions for the sector. “The reality is poverty pay is undermining quality for children and leaves qualified professionals struggling to make ends meet. The Minister's recommendation gives these essential workers a clear pathway towards better pay, conditions and ultimately recognition. It also provides a mechanism to ensure that increased government investment achieves policy goals and better opportunities for all." Early Years Manager and SIPTU member, Eilish Balfe said: “For 20 years, people have been talking about low pay in the sector but there was never a real plan to fix it. I've had one pay rise during my 13 years as an educator, and there are thousands of women like me. Now, for the first time there is light at the end of the tunnel. We have campaigned, we have marched, we have stood up for our sector and now we can achieve a pay deal that recognises our work and professionalism. The alternative is a continued exodus from the sector and nobody wants that. It's a good day for all of us who care about the sector and campaigning for our work to be finally recognised and rewarded.”