Parents face the potential for disruption to childcare services at providers around the country in the coming months if a Labour Court recommendation on pay in the sector takes effect in the coming weeks, Siptu has said.
The Labour Court document, which backed a pay increase of 5 per cent for the roughly 30,000 workers in the sector, is due to be voted on by representatives of both employers and workers at a meeting of the Early Years Joint Labour Committee on Monday. The recommendation for a 5 per cent increase is substantially lower than the 15 per cent sought by Siptu.
Both sides have six votes and in the event of a tie, the independent chair will decide the matter with approval of the Labour Court recommendation considered likely in that event.
During the hearing of the matter, Siptu representatives said approval, which would only be confirmed after a period of public consultation, would result in a string of local claims around the country “which could ultimately lead to industrial unrest”.
The gap between the two sides at the court, where Siptu sought increases of 15 per cent and employers, most of whom were led by Ibec, offered 3.5 per cent, is highlighted in the recommendation.
“The Court is asked by the members to accept on the one hand that the proposals of the worker representative members will have no cost increasing impact on employers in the sector while at the same time it is asked by the employer representative members to accept that an increase in rates of pay of anything approaching a fraction of the increase proposed by the worker representative members will have a catastrophic effect on the sector. These two submissions are irreconcilable,” it says.
The document, signed by Labour Court chairman Kevin Foley, expresses particular concern, however, about two submissions made by unnamed representatives on the employer side.
“The Court was deeply concerned at much of the content of the submissions of these two members. The content in many respects was not relevant in any way to the statutory functions of the Court and was deeply inappropriate,” it is stated.
The Ibec official leading the employer side “made a statement to the effect that that organisation was not associated in any way with these submissions and regarded their content to be unacceptable in many respects”. Ibec declined to comment on the issue.
The substantial gap between the position of the respective sides comes as one employer group, the Federation of Early Childhood Providers (FECP), is organising a three-day closure of services this Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with a protest scheduled to take place outside the Dáil on Tuesday. The organisation is seeking to highlight what it says is insufficient public funding of the sector.
The Department of Children, which rejects almost all of the FECP figures as inaccurate, said this week that just 56 of about 4,800 providers had indicated their intention to close in order to participate in the protest, something the funding regulations require them to do.
However, FECP chair Elaine Dunne said not informing the department has been adopted as part of the protest.
The federation claims extensive support from parents for its demands which, in addition to increased Government funding and a relaxation of the associated administrative burden, includes an end to the fee freeze. It cites online petition which had just over 5,200 signatures on Sunday afternoon for evidence of support.
In a separate letter to parents the federation, which says it represents more than a thousand providers, is asking those affected by the protest to pay their childcare fees as normal for the days involved as “staff deserve to be paid while fighting this fight”.
Siptu, meanwhile, which represents many of the staff, contends that current levels of funding are sufficient to make the vast majority of providers profitable. A spokesperson for the department last week said only a handful of providers had applied to a fund specially intended to support providers in financial difficulty.