More than 30,000 Early Years educators, providers and parents from across the country marched to demand a ‘new deal’ for the childcare sector at a colourful and vibrant protest march in Dublin, today (Wednesday, 5th February), which was led by mothers pushing their children in buggies. The protest, organised by the ‘Together for Early Years’ coalition is calling on the next government to increase funding so that it reduces fees for parents, increases pay for educators and supports the sustainability of services. SIPTU Head of Strategic Organising and Campaigns, Darragh O’Connor, said: “Over 30,000 people sent a clear message today – that poverty pay for Early Years educators must end. Investment in Early Years must be a priority for the next government or there will be many more days of protest.”He added “There is a real crisis in childcare. More than 60% educators earn less than the Living Wage of €12.30 per hour and parents are paying some of the highest fees in Europe. The next government has a choice. Will it continue with a failing service that is in crisis or will it invest in a new system that delivers for parents, educators, providers and children?”Federation of Early Childhood Providers Chairperson, Elaine Dunne, said: “This is just the beginning. We are in this for the long haul. The turnout exceeded all expectations and it underlines how passionately providers, educators and parents feel about the need for immediate change.” Seas Suas Chairperson, Regina Bushell, said: “You cannot improve pay and conditions for staff, give affordability for parents and achieve sustainability for providers without a massive increase in government funding for Early Years learning and care.”Chairperson of the Association of Childhood Professionals, Marian Quinn, said: “‘Together for Early Years’ is a collaborative call from our profession for respect and dignity in our work. We are at breaking point. The sector must have a new funding model that supports affordability and accessibility for parents, high quality experiences for children and professional pay and conditions for educators.”For the full ‘Together for Early Years’ campaign platform click HERE