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Oireachtas creche among those to close today in protest over funding

The majority of childcare providers are set to remain open on Tuesday.

The Oireachtas creche will be one of the childcare providers closing its doors today to join a Federation of Early Childhood Providers protest outside the Dáil scheduled for noon.

There was considerable uncertainly on Monday among those involved in the sector as to how many service providers might shut their doors for the day with the Department of Children having stated last week that just 56 of roughly 4,800 service providers had informed it of their intention to close.

Federation chair Elaine Dunne said the department will “be surprised” at the scale of the turnout, with buses due to bring owners and staff from as far away as Cork and Donegal to protest at the Dáil on Tuesday.

With the Federation claiming to represent around a quarter of service providers and industry sources suggesting they expected many of those to operate normally, the majority of providers are set to remain open.

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Of those that are closing a number are, like the one in the Oireachtas, expected to do so for just Tuesday rather than the three days called for by the FECP.

In a letter to parents, including some politicians, the company behind the Oireachtas creche, Oakview Early Years, said it was participating in the closure in order to highlight continued underfunding of the sector by the Government.

“Our team working with children do amazing work every day, yet due to increasing costs and limited funding, they are leaving the sector that they love due to burnout and low salary.

“This is having huge implications on all services as we continue to try to maintain high standards and child:staff ratios.”

The Federation says many providers are closing their doors permanently due to the financial strain but the Department of Children disputes this, pointing to Tusla figures which, it says, shows declining rates of closures and the fact that only a handful of providers seek to avail of particular supports available to those in financial difficulty.

Staff pay is highlighted by all parties, however, along with the availability of places, which the department acknowledges remains a big issue in some locations.

The Labour Court recommended increases of around 5 per cent. The union is seeking 15 per cent while the employers had offered around 3.5 cent. Pay in the sector currently starts at €13 per hour although many providers already pay above this.

Representatives of employers, led by Ibec but including the Federation, met on Monday afternoon at the Early Years Joint Labour Committee with Siptu, which represents around 6,000 workers in the sector, as part of the process of establishing new minimum pay rates in the sector.

The Labour Court recommendation was endorsed by the meeting despite the opposition of the union representatives and will not be the subject of a public consultation before a final version is sent for Government approval.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times