This week, the EPSU Childcare Network met to discuss monitoring and evaluation of early childhood education and care, the capacity of ECEC systems to welcome Ukrainian children and ECEC staff, and child : staff ratios.
Early Childhood Education and Care
Early Childhood Education and Care is an important area of social services for EPSU which aims to work together with affiliates, civil society and others to ensure accessible, affordable and quality childcare in Europe. The overwhelmingly female workforce is undervalued and the improving of pay and working conditions across the sector is crucial along with lobbying and campaigning for increased public investment and funding. EPSU has set up an Early Childhood Education and Care network to enable affiliates that organised in the sector to coordinate and exchange information.
After three days of bargaining the ver.di services union has negotiated an agreement with the VKA municipal employers that goes some way to address the undervaluation and overwork of staff in social and educational services. The union thanked its members for mobilising to achieve the result in the face of considerable resistance from the employers. Over 40,000 ver.di members took action in the week leading up to the latest negotiations. The agreement will provide employees with two additional days off as well as the option to convert part of their salary into two further days off. Educators
Public and private sector unions representing workers in early years education, younion and GPA, have attacked government plans for the sector as farcical. They argue that the claim that there will be an extra billion euros in funding is a sham and that in reality the additional money is less than €60 million and already worth less because of inflation. The unions are also concerned that the aim is to create more childcare places when facilities are already full and staff overstretched. They also criticise the government for developing policies without proper consultation and negotiation with
Public services union ver.di organised a nationwide day of action on 6 April for employees in day-care centres, and workers providing child, youth and disability care in non-profit organisations, including churches and private employers. Various initiatives were taken including lunchtime demonstrations and photo campaigns. The aim was to underline the importance of securing better pay and conditions for workers across the sector, making work more attractive and tackling staff shortages. While the current negotiations concern the 330,000 workers directly employed by the public sector, the
The GPA and vida private service trade unions organised an action in Vienna on 29 March as part of their campaign to win better pay and conditions for workers in early years education. Along with better pay to help attract new staff the unions want action to reduce workloads, improve staff:child ratios and major investment in training. GPA and vida underline the need for national initiatives on pay structure and funding to reduce the different approaches from region to region.
Younion, representing staff in early years education and care (ECEC) in the public sector is organising protests across the country on 21 March in its continuing campaign to win improvements to the pay and conditions of workers in the sector. The union wants to see administrative tasks reduced and more support staff recruited to give workers more time with the children in their care. The other key demands cover increased recruitment overall, improved training, proper recognition of work in the sector, recognition of COVID-19 as an occupational disease and better representation of workers and
Negotiations between the ver.di service union and the VKA local government employers’ association took place on 25 February but were suspended with no proposals from the employers on how to improve pay and conditions for workers involved in early years education and social services. The union is concerned that urgent action is needed to deal with the shortage of 173,000 skilled workers in day-care centres alone but the VKA has rejected union proposals to reduce workloads. Ver.di believes that there was a constructive atmosphere in the negotiations but there were no concessions from the
Service union ver.di is highlighting the essential role played by social care and early years education in the lead up to the resumption of negotiations that were suspended in March 2020. The union argues that workers in the sector were indispensable during the pandemic and their contribution needs to be recognised in relation to pay and working conditions. Ver.di underlines that the predominantly female workforce faces low recognition of their skills and competences, poor working conditions, low salaries, fixed-term contracts and part-time work. The challenges facing the sector are made worse
The public and private sectors unions representing staff in early years education (younion, vida and GPA) have come together to demand action at national level on staffing and safety in childcare institutions. The unions want to see unified, national regulations applied on issues like COVID-19 and increased staffing to ensure that childcare institutions can maintain safety for both workers and children. The pandemic is still having an impact and with staff falling ill or having to quarantine, the pressure of work continues to increase for an already overburdened group of workers.
Childcare workers in the private sector who are covered by pay regulations rather than a collective agreement are getting a 3.2% pay increase following negotiations led by the GPA and vida trade unions. Meanwhile, full-time workers in private health and social care are now entitled to a 37-hour week as of 1 January. This was the result of earlier negotiations by the GPA and vida unions and reflects their long-running campaign to tackle overwork in the sectors. The unions are also determined to continue their efforts to reduce working time with a target of a 35-hour week.
A survey of childcare staff by the JHL public services reveals worrying levels of exhaustion among workers with more than half saying they experience it least weekly and more than 60% experiencing exhaustion every month. Some 70% of the more than 2200 respondents had been in the sector for more than 10 years. The union says the results are alarming and underline the urgent need for more staff to prevent a full-blown crisis. JHL also says that problems are caused by lack of support staff and inadequate cover when childcare staff are involved in planning. Furthermore, staff to child ratios that
The SIPTU trade union says that figures released by the Department of Further and Higher Education confirm that the staffing crisis in childcare in not driven by a lack of qualified educators but by pay levels that are so low that many workers have to leave their chosen profession. Around 6000 workers get childcare qualifications each year and the union argues that this should be enough to provide suitable staff for the 26000 posts that require a qualification. However, SIPTU highlights the fact that early years educators earn on average just €11.91 per hour, 99 cents below the living wage of
SIPTU, the union that represents around 6000 workers in early years education, has welcomed the government’s decision to increase funding for the sector with an additional €69 million in the 2022 budget. With average pay at €11.91 an hour, the union is calling for urgent action on pay in order to tackle recruitment and retention in the sector where around four in 10 workers are looking for alternative employment. SIPTU is calling for pay talks to begin as soon as possible in the newly established Early Years Joint Labour Committee where a negotiated pay increase will be legally enforced.
Around 5000 workers in early years education joined a noisy demonstration outside the education ministry on 14 October. The protest covered both public and private sectors and was organised by the younion, vida and GPA trade unions, with the support of the ÖGB trade union confederation. The unions have been frustrated by the ministry’s refusal to invite them onto the advisory board that debates key issues affecting the sector. However, the protest had one immediate result in that the unions were invited to the next meeting. More broadly the unions used the demonstration to set out their key
The Fagforbundet and Delta trade unions have negotiated pay increases for workers in early years education in the private sector. The pay rise is around 4% varying according to skill level with the minimum annual salary for assistants rising by NOK 13000 (€1325) to NOK 325800 (€33265). The trade unions and the PBL employers’ organisation also agreed to continue negotiations over pensions. In contrast, pensions are at the heart of a dispute in the culture sector with theatre, opera, ballet and orchestral workers on strike since 3 September. Temporary pension arrangements were agreed in 2016 but