The government has announced a significant new pay deal for early years and childcare workers, that will see the first ever minimum rates of pay coming into effect next week.
Cork early years workers and union representatives have heralded the pay deal as a “historic day” for the profession, which will bring an end to “poverty wages” in the sector.
It was announced on Wednesday that Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail Damien English has accepted proposals for Employment Regulation Orders for the Early Years Services Sector.
The Orders will commence on 15 September 2022, providing new minimum rates of pay for various roles in the Early Years Services Sector, starting at €13 per hour for practitioners and up to €17.25 per hour for graduate managers.
It is expected that more than 70% of workers in the sector will be set for a pay increase under the agreement, with one in five seeing a pay increase of at least 20%.
The pay deal was signed after “years of campaigning” and negotiating by SIPTU organisers and activists on behalf of members.
Cork Early Years Teacher and SIPTU activist, Timms Crotty Quinlan, said the signing of the pay deal “marks an historic day for our profession”.
“Our profession is 98% female. We educate and care for tens of thousands of children every day yet our profession has been one of the lowest paid jobs in Ireland. Up to now a majority of Early Years Educators have earned below the Living Wage of €12.90,” she said.
“After years of campaigning, we finally have our first pay deal. Thousands of Early Years Professionals will see a pay increase that will end poverty wages and set us on a path to professional pay and recognition,” she added.
SIPTU Sector Organiser Pat McCabe said that low pay has caused a staffing crisis in the sector as services struggle to recruit and retain staff.
“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 and show that when you get together and organise a union you can change things for the better,” he said.
Minister English said that the Orders will apply to some 27,000 staff and is a “welcome acknowledgement of the importance of the work carried out by everyone working in the early learning and childcare sector”.
The Orders are being supported by the government’s €221m Core Funding Scheme for the sector, which is also officially launched on 15 September, and was announced by Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O’Gorman as part of Budget 2022.
Minister O’Gorman acknowledged the “independent nature of the Labour Court and Joint Labour Committee process and the hard work of its members in negotiating the pay and conditions for employees in the early learning and childcare sector”.