Dozens of childcare professionals yesterday marched from one of Cork City’s social welfare offices to another. They were protesting the Government’s failure to agree contracts with workers who will operate day care centres this September.
Protestors said that the failure to give job security to childcare workers was putting Government promises of two years’ free pre-school care in jeopardy.
Marion Quinn, chairwoman of the National Association of Childhood Professionals, said childcare workers would this week sign on for social welfare payments, not knowing if their jobs would exist in September: “There are about 4,000 people signing on this week, because the Government gives them a 38-week contract to deliver high-quality care to young children throughout the year.”
Eleanor O’Connell, ACP’s Cork branch chairwoman, has worked at Greenmount Community playgroup for the past 17 years: “As of today, I am out-of-contract. Our contracts expired yesterday and we’ve already promised nearly 40 children places for September, in our play group, and we don’t even know if we have jobs.”
“They have promised up to two years’ free pre-school, from September this year, but they still didn’t get the first year right — they never consulted with us, people actually working in the sector.
“There is no guarantee that we will have jobs to go to in September. That’s the reality,” she added.
Ms Quinn said Ms O’Connell’s case is typical of childcare professionals, many of whom have qualifications equivalent to primary school teaching.
“The services Eleanor is managing are literally across the hall from teachers who also have a level-eight qualification, working with children of a similar age to her. When you look at the infant classes, they’re closed for the summer as well, but their terms and conditions are protected,” she said.
Ms Quinn stopped working in childcare and now lectures in Cork Institute of Technology.
“You couldn’t get a mortgage, you were signing on every summer. You couldn’t get a loan for a car without your parents acting as guarantors. I had to leave. I couldn’t afford to continue living like that. I’m saying to my students ‘why would you be doing it’?” she said.
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