A Cork-based teacher and member of the SIPTU union pledges to continue his campaign to improve pay rates for childcare workers

“This is our first compensation contract, not the last. The campaign for recognition, respect, compensation and working conditions will continue.

What was the commitment of Colette Fraser, a Cork-based early years teacher and member of the SIPTU union, following the establishment of an Employment Regulation Order (ERO) setting minimum rates of pay for the sector.

The pay deal, negotiated by SIPTU organizers and activists on behalf of the union’s 6,000 members in the sector, setting legally binding pay rates came into effect on Thursday 15 September.

The staggered deal, which was signed by the government earlier this month, will see the average pay rate for early childhood educators with a QQI Level 5 qualification fall from €11.57 to a minimum of €13.

The new minimum hourly wage for Head Trainers will increase to €14, Graduate Head Trainers to €15.50, Assistant Managers to €15.70, Managers to €16.50 and Graduate Managers to €17.25.

ERO’s pay terms are financially supported by a new €221 million ‘base funding’ scheme and will see over 70% of staff working in the early learning and childcare sector get a pay rise.

Ms Fraser said the sector, made up mostly of female staff, educates tens of thousands of children every day “yet our profession is one of the lowest paying jobs in Ireland”.

“So far the majority of early childhood educators have earned less than the living wage of €12.90,” Ms Fraser said.

“This is our first pay deal, not the last. The campaign for recognition, respect and pay and working conditions will continue,” she promised.

Fellow professional and SIPTU member Timms Crotty Quinlan said the signing of the ERO by Minister of State for Business, Employment and Trade, Damien English, marked a historic milestone for the profession.

“After years of campaigning, we finally have our first pay deal. Thousands of early childhood professionals will see a pay rise that will end poverty wages and put us on the path to professional compensation and recognition.

SIPTU organizer Eva Mitchell said low pay had caused a severe staffing crisis in the sector, which had made it difficult for services to recruit and retain staff.

“This pay deal and future pay increases mean early years professionals can plan to stay in their chosen profession for the long term. These amazing union activists and members are an example to all low-wage workers and show that when you come together and organize a union, you can change things for the better,” Ms Mitchell said.