Various trade unions are calling for concrete action to be taken in the childcare sector in light of concerns of children's health and safety, and have issued a strike notice.
According to union BBTK, the childcare sector has been in crisis for some time, but recent incidents of abuse, which in one case resulted in the death of a young girl, further exacerbated the situation. This resulted in the government implementing stricter policies, but the union argued this is not enough.
"The BBTK has already sounded the alarm several times in the past. Flemish Welfare Minister Wouter Beke proposed an action plan in response to the media hype. Unfortunately, that plan only focuses on inspection and enforcement," a statement from the union read.
It said a better framework is needed that puts children at the centre of care to curb the rising level of distrust as a result of recent incidents and reports. Alongside other members of a childcare consortium, the BBTK announced seven concrete action points for the sector, mainly regarding work pressure and staff numbers.
Staff training and improved working conditions
Flanders has the highest child per carer ratio in Europe, which unions have argued is untenable and should be brought down to five children per carer. The consortium added that staff should receive continued professional training and that more professional support, for example from pedagogical coaches, is also needed.
Finally, the statement read that the sector should be made more attractive by increasing wages and improving working conditions.
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"It is essential that the work pressure goes down and that the sector becomes more attractive to avoid further outflow," said Federal Secretary Johan Van Eeghem, adding that the union is calling for an employee status for each child care worker.
"This will be important to maintain and even increase the reception capacity. The sector needs sufficiently motivated and well-trained staff. Control is good, decent pay and working conditions are better," Van Eeghem said.
As part of the call for concrete action to be taken, three trade unions have issued a strike notice for childcare on Friday 25 March, however, the inconvenience for the child care centres should not be too bad, Nathalie Winters of the ACV Puls trade union said, as unions have asked members to agree on minimum occupancy.