Early Years educators and providers from across county Wexford presented local TDs with a petition, containing over 2,000 signatures, which calls for improved pay and conditions in the sector, at an event in Riverside Park Hotel, Enniscorthy, county Wexford on Monday (18th June). The TDs presented with the petition where Minister of State Paul Kehoe, Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin and James Browne of Fianna Fáil. The politicians discussed the issues in the sector with the large number of SIPTU Big Start campaign members who attended the event. Childcare provider and SIPTU activist, Peter Smith, said: “There is a crisis in our sector, staff are paid too little and providers are struggling to stay open. We cannot ask parents to pay any more, so if we want quality, affordable childcare the government simply needs to invest in this vital public service.”     Early Years educator, Alison Hallahan, said: “We have three TDs who have said they will back us. However, we also need a strong union so our voice is heard. Already many people with degrees in Early Years education are leaving the sector to work in shops. This has to change.”  There are 130 childcare services in county Wexford employing 660 educators who look after 4,887 children. The average rate of pay for these workers, including managers, is €11.47 per hour. The average cost of full day childcare for parents is €155 per week. The staff turnover in the services runs at a rate of 24% per annum.  SIPTU Sector Organiser, Darragh O’Connor, said: “Currently the state in Ireland invests just 0.5% of GDP on early childhood education and care this compares to 1.2% of GDP invested by France and 1.6% of GDP by Sweden. “Ireland’s model of childcare is broken. It needs to be radically transformed so it works for parents, educators and providers. Wexford educators and providers are standing up to make this happen.”