The country's biggest trade union SIPTU has objected to childcare workers being forced to return to work earlier than teachers whose return was delayed due to the spread of Covid-19.
SIPTU representatives have today, Thursday, December 31, demanded that equal treatment is applied to all educators under new Level 5 restrictions.
Speaking following the announcement of the move, SIPTU Head of Organising Darragh O’Connor said:
“An Taoiseach told the nation that the reopening of primary and secondary schools will be delayed to allow families to minimise their contacts and allow schools to implement new Covid-19 protective measures. The reality is that Early Years educators and parents face the exact same challenges. However, as it stands the early years sector is expected to reopen from Monday, January 4.
“SIPTU is demanding that the start date is pushed back to coincide with the reopening of schools and that equal treatment for Early Years educators is applied to ensure the same protections can be implemented and people are kept safe,” he said.
Early Years educator and SIPTU member Clare Casey said Covid-19 does not discriminate.
“We are qualified educators and should be treated with the same respect shown to other educators by the government. As an educator, I experience the same fears around contracting Covid-19 as my colleagues in primary and secondary schools and just because I work in a creche doesn’t mean I am immune to catching this deadly virus,” she said.
The Minister for Children, Disability, Equality, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, says the reopening of creches is safe.
"‘The public health advice has indicated that the continued operation of early learning and childcare services is safe. Continued operation of these services is also in the interest of children and is critical for working parents, especially those in the workforce on whom we rely to deliver essential services," he said.
The Minister for Education, Norma Foley, explained why school reopening would be delayed.
"The Government has considered carefully the public health data analysis regarding schools, which is hugely reassuring and shows that schools continue to be safe places.
“The Christmas school break will be extended for three additional days to 11 January. This will allow every member of the school community to follow public health advice closely and minimise their contacts before children return to school," she said.
The Irish National Teachers Organisation called for a delay in advance of Level 5 being announced.