Northern Ireland

Royal College of Midwives urges members to back industrial action

The Royal College of Midwives in Northern Ireland has opened a ballot on pay. Picture by David Jones: Press Association
The Royal College of Midwives in Northern Ireland has opened a ballot on pay. Picture by David Jones: Press Association

THE Royal College of Midwives has encouraged members to back industrial action as it opens a formal ballot on pay.

Midwives and maternity support workers in the RCM now have until March 7 to make their decision.

In a statement, the union said it followed a November consultation where nine out of 10 members who responded said they would take action if no pay award was agreed.

In December, the NHS Pay Review Body recommendation had suggested a four per cent pay award which falls well below the rate of inflation.

Karen Murray, the RCM’s Director for Northern Ireland, said: “I cannot overstate the frustration and disappointment of our members on the totally inadequate pay offer imposed upon them. It is yet another real terms pay cut and comes after years of pay freezes and pay stagnation and now with inflation sitting in double-figures our members are feeling the impact of the cost-of-living crisis."

She said that RCM members were also being called upon to stand up for better care of women and their families.

"The pressures on midwives MSWs and other maternity staff are enormous and growing but without the investment and resources to back them up," she said.

"They are exhausted, burnt-out and working above and beyond every day to care for our women, babies, and their partners. They see no other option in order to highlight their exasperation and to focus attention onto maternity services.”

Ms Murray said that in the absence of Stormont, Northern Ireland has been left without a new maternity strategy which would plan for future services.

If RCM members back industrial action, Ms Murray said HSC employers would be given "adequate notice" of any disruption and that every step would be taken to ensure the delivery of safe care was not compromised.

“It’s not too late to avert action and the answers to the issues affecting maternity staff lie with politicians," she said.

"Our door is open and we, along with other health unions, are ready and willing to sit back down and negotiate; for a decent pay deal for our members, for better working conditions for them and for better care for women using our maternity services.”

RCM members in Scotland and Wales have already backed industrial action, with strike action in Wales set for February 7 and followed by a week of action short of a strike.

In Northern Ireland, several health unions took part in a second wave of strike action on Thursday.

The Unite Union has also planned two 48 hour strikes next month, taking place on February 16/17 and 23/24.