The Irish SME Association (ISME) has said it is “untenable” for the Government to proceed with establishing a joint labour committee for the early learning and childcare sectors if the organisation, which represents “a substantial majority of providers”, is not involved.
Potentially hundreds of employers in the sectors will not accept the outcome of the planned new process aimed at establishing minimum terms for staff if their representatives are not included, the group has signalled.
Earlier this month Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman said he would be recommending that the Government put in place a joint labour committee for the early learning and care (ELC) and school-age childcare (SAC) sector.
The Minister said that if established, the committee would provide an opportunity for the Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union and the Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation “to engage in negotiations on an employment regulation order which could ultimately establish binding rates of pay and conditions for the sector”.
However, on Thursday, in a letter to Mr O'Gorman and copied to Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, ISME said in effect that one of its members represented far more employers in the sector than those who would be taking part in the joint labour committee process.
ISME also criticised the fact it was not included in the Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF), where Government, trade unions and employers consider and discuss issues relating to the economy, employment and the workforce.
“The Federation of Early Childhood Providers is a member of ISME. Its membership consists of 1,585 members, while we understand that the entity purporting to speak for the entire sector in LEEF has some 580 members. These figures of course exclude significantly larger numbers of stand-alone ‘sole-trader’ early-years providers operating outside the larger towns and villages,” the ISME said.
“It is untenable for you to proceed with a joint labour committee where the representatives of a substantial majority of providers are excluded. It will fatally undermine the credibility of any agreements reached and you can have no legitimate expectation of support, buy-in or acceptance from our members if this exclusion persists.
“While the wider issue of LEEF membership for ISME is of course a matter for the Taoiseach and Cabinet, the proximate issue of the establishment of a [joint labour committee] for the ELC and SAC sector requires that ISME is included, or in default that the proposed [committee] is abandoned.”
A spokesman for Mr O’Gorman said the Department of Children had received the letter from ISME and would respond in due course. He said the Minister or the department did not have any comment on the issue on Friday.