Several unions representing workers in early years education came together on 5 May in a day of strike action and a demonstration in Brussels. Workers are angry about the impact of the pandemic on the sector and the failure of the authorities in the Wallonia and Brussels regions to address their concerns. The unions were also demanding a revaluation of pay in the sector and a range of other measures to deal with staffing issues, leave, contracts and increased public funding.
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.
Public service union, younion has joined with private service unions GPA and vida as well as the ÖGB trade union confederation and Chamber of Labour to call on the government to take urgent steps to increase training in the childcare and after-school care sector. The unions point out that inadequate staffing levels were apparent before the pandemic but have become more acute and overburdened staff need the reassurance that newly trained staff will soon be recruited. They underline the fact that many workers in the sector are thinking about leaving and that a wave of retirements is also
A new agreement between unions, employers and the Flemish government has delivered a range of benefits for workers in various health and social services in the non-profit sector. Overall, there will be the equivalent of 3,716 new posts to help tackle high workloads. There will be a general 1.7% increase in wages but with some additional increases for those on the lowest pay rates and those will long service. In elderly care, the rehabilitation sector, psychiatric care homes and sheltered living initiatives, there will be a new pay structure from 1 July 2021, bringing pay rates in alignment
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
The government has put forward a proposal to set up a joint labour committee (JLC) that would determine minimum pay and working conditions for the childcare sector. Currently there is no sector bargaining covering childcare workers and unions have been campaigning for years to tackle low pay and precarious employment. JLCs are independent bodies that exist in sectors like security and cleaning where there is no sector bargaining. They issue employment regulation orders (ERO) setting minimum pay rates and conditions. SIPTU says that a JLC would provide an opportunity for the union and the IBEC
The SIPTU trade union has just published findings from a survey of early years professionals showing that 43% of childcare workers are actively seeking another job due to low pay levels in the sector. The findings also show that 90% of workers struggle to make ends meet, 77% have no work sick pay scheme and just 10% receive paid maternity leave from their employer. More than seven in 10 workers have found dealing with COVID stressful while just over nine in 10 would consider leaving the profession in the next five years if there are no improvements in pay and conditions.
The ver.di trade union has warned of problems being created in childcare institutions because of a lack of clarity and consistency in rules that should apply during the current pandemic. The union says that it isn’t right to leave it up to parents and the local management of childcare facilities to decide on their own rules and this fails to ensure planned approach to address the incidence of the virus among children and the increase in sickness among staff. Ver.di argues that the plan adopted by the city of Bremen provides a good example of what is needed to be negotiated at national level in
The vida and GPA-djp trade unions have negotiated increases for minimum pay rates for workers in private childcare institutions that are not covered by collective agreements. Teachers and staff get a 1.95% while assistants will get a 2% increase. The unions are pleased that the increases are slightly above inflation and the trend in other agreements. Childminders will get a 2.5% rise and will now be entitled to an increase after every two years rather than three.
Members of public services union Fagforbundet are involved in a strike over pay against church employers. Following the failure of mediation, the union had to resort to strike action to prevent employers from reducing starting pay rates for new priests. There is also concern that priests who switch jobs might lose out. The union argues that such a measure would only worsen the current recruitment crisis. Meanwhile, a strike of childcare workers organised by Fagforbundet and Delta was called off at the last minute when the Norlandia group agreed to introduce a pension scheme in line with the
The Fagforbundet and Delta trade unions warn that strike action could follow if mediation doesn’t produce a result in a dispute over pension provision in the Norlandia Group. The unions are fighting for a hybrid pension scheme that would give employees a decent pension for life. This is the kind of scheme that is widely available in most private childcare companies but not Norlandia. The unions underline that the type of scheme they are arguing for particularly benefits women and that an industry standard must be maintained for private childcare companies so that employees' pay, working and
Public service unions Fórsa and SIPTU have called for urgent action to better protect healthcare and childcare staff against the COVID-19 virus. Fórsa says that figures show over 9000 health workers were infected at the beginning of last month and that many are being pushed back to work too quickly by local management in response to increased demand and shortages of staff. Meanwhile, SIPTU has been making a case for a change in a approach in the childcare sector where there is no requirement to wear masks or implement social distancing. The union wants a review of procedures, for staff to be