The Minister for Children has said crèches will not see their State funding docked if they take part in next week’s national protest.
Thousands of childcare workers, parents and providers are expected to take part in a march next week protesting against the “worsening childcare crisis” in Ireland.
Ahead of the protest, the Department of Children warned childcare services they would not receive childcare scheme payments for the day if they failed to open.
It also warned that they would not be paid if they opened on an alternative day to make up for the closure.
This afternoon, however, Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone said that after “considered the concerns and circumstances” of the sector, she was reversing the decision.
She said childcare providers would be paid provided they found an “alternative, suitable date” to open.
The protest march will get underway in Dublin next Wednesday, February 5th.
Organised by the Early Years Alliance, an umbrella group made up of childcare staff, providers, unions and parents, the demonstration is demanding a “new model of childcare” in Ireland.
The group said the current model involves low wages for workers, high fees for parents and an uncertain future for many crèches.
Around 1,500 crèches have already signed up to take part in the protest – with demonstrators warning that many will be forced to close if their concerns are not addressed.
Dublin crèche owner Elaine Dunne says workers are quitting because of low wages.
“We are paid as glorified babysitters,” she said.
“If a staff member decides to leave – which has happened in a couple of services that I know – and they have gone to work in Lidl or Aldi, they are getting €14.75 an hour.
“Even though they are trained as Montessori teachers, they are now working in Aldi.”
She said childcare workers are currently paid three times less than primary school teachers even though, “we have the same education and do the same job – if not more.”
“We have to fight because if we don’t fight for parent’s rights and the children’s rights and for that funding, we are all going to all be upping our fees again,” she said.
“It won’t just be 10% or 12% - it is going to be a lot higher to cover everything that we have to sustain within the business.”
In her statement, Minister Zappone said she has always supported better pay for Childcare Professionals – but warned that as they are directly employed by the State, the Government can’t set their pay.
The protesters are calling for a new funding model that will ensure crèches can stay open and pay their workers an acceptable wage without hiking their fees.