CHILDCARE workers from pre-school facilities Little Learners and Tots Corner in Graiguecullen were among the thousands who made the trip to Dublin last Wednesday to take part in a protest calling for greater government investment in the sector.
Mags Enright, Sarah Conlon and Mags Davis from Little Learners pre-school in Rochfort Manor and Jacqueline Malone and Kathleen Alsybury from Tots Corner beside Graiguecullen swimming pool joined an estimated 30,000 people as part of the umbrella group Together for Early Years.
“It was actually overwhelming, the level of support that came out on the day,” said Mags Enright. “There was a march a couple of years ago with about 2,000 people at it, which they were delighted with at that time. But for 30,000 people to come out, it was humbling.”
Demonstrators called on the next government to increase funding in order to reduce fees for parents, increase pay for educators and support their services.
Mags says that the biggest challenge facing a facility like hers in Graiguecullen is the ability to pay staff.
“We get paid incrementally by the department and my next payment isn’t due for a month-and-a-half. We have to make sure we have enough every week to pay the girls and to pay everything that has to go out.
“I have three girls, including myself. We’re all educated to degree level, we’ve studied for four years and we’re paid €11 an hour. It’s not right. And as an employer, it kills me that I can’t give them more. But we can’t pay more because we’re not getting it in to give it out.”
Mags said the day of protest was a great success on many levels.
“It was a brilliant day,” she says. “It brought a lot of providers together and it has encouraged us to network and to be more involved in the community. It had a lot more positives than we ever imagined.”