A VIEW FROM MOYROSS: The Government this week announced increased pay rates for early years educators. – SIPTU and childcare workers had said the sector was veering towards collapse – All welcomed the decision, but…
On Wednesday, Sept 7th, the Government signed off on an Employment Regulation Order that will quickly introduce higher minimum wage levels for staff in the Early Years Childcare Sector. So, how was the announcement greeted at community childcare level?
It seemed that the protests from the professionals caring for the nation’s children and trade unions such as SIPTU were finally heard.
Caoimhe Lalor and Ella Jones-Bourke interviewed Lisa Flanagan of Little Seeds Childcare in Moyross to gain an insight into how those working in the sector feel about the change:
Leesa is utterly dedicated to early years education and she termed this week’s announcement “historic”.
THE NEW RATES
Leesa and her colleagues in Moyross include many who took part in the massive protest held in Dublin, in February 2020, over early years pay. Over 30,000 workers and voluntary management members were estimated to have joined the march. (It featured on the cover of ‘Changing Ireland’, Issue 68).
Leesa is a former manager of Little Seeds Childcare and has 17 years of experience in the sector and on this issue. Throughout her career, she saw the campaign grow.
“This is an historic moment for childcare providers,” she said.
Leesa was very clear in her view that even though the new regulation order is only a “stepping stone”, it is most certainly a significant move in the right direction. She sees the importance of “embracing and acknowledging the positives” that will emerge as a result of increased wages.
Some of these positives include an increased scope for quality within each room in the creche and the ability to hire experienced room leaders. These changes will enhance the standard of care within early years education settings, in Leesa’s opinion.
Leesa is currently studying for her PhD on Mindfulness in Early Years Education and holds the title of Family and Community Engagement Co-ordinator at Moyross Community Enterprise Centre which supports Little Seeds Childcare.
She is driven by the motivation to “provide a quality, nurturing environment,” particularly as Moyross is “deemed a disadvantaged area.”
Through her family outreach, she aspires to make a difference in the lives of not only the child, but to the family unit – by offering support to parents and guardians around the care of their children. This is especially important post-Covid-19, where she has witnessed children with “increased anxiety and being behind developmentally.”
Like many childcare workers up to this point, her “intrinsic motivation” to provide a multifaceted education to young children kept her in the sector – despite the inadequate pay. However, many were forced to quit for better pay elsewhere.
Leesa said the increased funding though welcome, is definitely needed – especially post-Covid – to support staff and childcare.
SIPTU had warned in August that the sector was in danger of collapsing and it called on the Government to invest an additional €150m in childcare, split between pay and affordability issues:
“If Budget 2022 does not increase investment in the sector, specifically for salaries, then the consequences will be a significant collapse of service provision.”
In a statement this week the trade union welcomed the Government’s announcement of a pay deal. The agreement was negotiated by SIPTU organisers and activists on behalf of the union’s 6,000 members in the sector and will set legally binding rates of pay. The agreement was announced on Wednesday by the Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English.
Minister English said:
“The proposals submitted to me will apply to some 27,000 staff and are a welcome acknowledgement of the importance of the work carried out by everyone working in the early learning and childcare sector.”
SIPTU Head of Organising, Darragh O’Connor, said:
“This pay deal, and future pay increases, means that Early Years professionals can plan to stay in their chosen profession in the long term. These incredible union activists and members are an example to all low paid workers.”
Mr O’Connor added:
“This is our first pay deal, not our last. The campaign for recognition, respect and professional pay and conditions will continue.”
And despite the announcement on salary increases being a tremendous achievement for all the early childhood educators, the funding presents challenges.
Leesa referred to a lack of notice and information from the Government. The implementation of funding on the 15th September has created a difficulty because contracts would ideally have been finalised before the commencement of the academic year.
Additionally, Leesa feels that if there was “one unified group”, instead of segregation across several trade unions and representations, the wait for the pay increase may not have been so long. She would like to see one umbrella group for all childcare providers to unify and strengthen workers’ voices.
HOURLY PAY WILL RISE TO €13.31 / €15.50
While the Government has long recognised that a child’s formative years are the most important in their development, it took until now for wages to come close to matching those of primary school teachers.
Figures from SIPTU show:
– the average wage currently for a QQI Level 5 Early Years Educator is €11.57 per hour, which is significantly lower than the Living Wage of €12.90.
– For an Early Years Room Leader with a QQI Level 8, the present average is €13.21 per hour.
The new order will see these rates rise to €13 per hour for the former and €15.50 for the latter. The pay deal comes into effect from Thursday, September 15th.
The Early Years Sector is 98% female.
– SOME PREVIOUS EARLY YEARS NEWS REPORTS FROM ‘CHANGING IRELAND’: