CRÈCHE and childcare workers are taking a stand against poverty pay.
On the 17 of February at 1pm thousands of these workers who are mostly women will protest outside Dail Eireann.
The 25,000 registered childcare professionals are angered by constant demands made on them to upskill and retrain all of which they have to pay for themselves.
This sector is almost completely un-unionised. Early Childcare Ireland and the Association of Childhood Professionals are organising the protest.
These organisations also cite the overall lack of investment in the sector as a massive bone of contention with their members.
The Irish state only spends just 0.2% of GNP on the Early Childhood Care and Education Sector.
This is in comparison to the OECD average of 0.7%. Ireland is unique in the European context because the pre-school sector is completely dispersed, non-centralised and almost entirely in private hands.
The professionalism of the workers and by extension the care of the children is being severely undermined by poor pay and changes made to Community Employment as well as the many social welfare internship schemes.
The number of inspections has massively increased and more and more crèches are now facing closure.
The workers understand the necessity of rules and regulations but they are frustrated by over regulation while receiving no supports as well as an HSE recruitment embargo which means inspections are often carried out by people not privy to the sector.
The average pay in the sector is just above minimum wage, about €18,000 per year.
On top of this each worker has to pay for their own college course to attain their qualification.
Most of these women will pay over €10,000 per year for 3 years to secure their degree.
These workers deserve to be treated as professionals with decent pay, free education and to work in a sector that is valued by the government and fully state funded.