Trade unions in the childcare sector organised a day of action on 30 March in protest at government proposals that they say would lead to a deterioration in service quality and working conditions. The unions are concerned about the prospect of an increase in staff/children ratios and failure to address issues related to skills, pay and career development. Meanwhile, in the latest stage of their campaign against the restructuring of the energy sector, the four trade unions – FNME-CGT, CFE-CGC Énergies, FO Énergie et Mines and FCE-CFDT – have called for a day of strike action and protests on 8 April – the 75th anniversary of the nationalisation of the gas and electricity industries. The unions are concerned that the government is going ahead with plans to divide the main energy provider, EDF, into three sections which could lead to privatisation of certain segments with serious implications for workers’ pay and conditions and for the quality of service to citizens. This is the lasts in a series of actions that have been reported in the EPSU Collective Bargaining Newsletter (November 2020, January and February 2021).
Unions mobilise in childcare and energy sectors
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Unions organising childcare workers met in Brussels to exchange information on some of the main challenges they face to improve the quality of employment in the sector. Low pay, undervaluing of childcare work, precarious employment, work intensification, health and safety, staff shortages and inadequate career development were among the issues facing many unions in the sector.
The JHL public service union that represents 22000 workers in childcare has called for major changes to the draft law on early years education and care. The union argues that the proposals wrongly target changes in qualifications and employment structure in the sector rather than dealing with the fundamental issues of numbers of staff and staff:children ratios. The union warns that the suggested and unnecessary educational requirements will cause major employment problems in the sector.
Good quality childcare and early years education are vital public services. However, they are often underfunded and, for many workers unaffordable, while childcare workers themselves, the vast majority of whom are women, are often undervalued and underpaid.At European level there is some recognition of the importance of childcare in increasing women’s employment and as a contribution to encourage gender equality. This meeting will debate these issues with a range of speakers including researchers, trade union representatives, employers, civil society and the European Commission.