It is the first time in the history of the profession that midwives are threatening to go on strike over pay rates. This poses a real concern for pregnant women.
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) was founded in 1881 and this is the first time in its 133-year history that the college has given its members the option to go on strike or not.
The Chief Executive of RCM, Cathy Warwick, warned about the anger and frustration midwives are experiencing. She said that the college was aware of the anger from midwives about the derisory offer made by the Government, but the response of the midwives indicates their level of anger at the way they have been treated. The college stated that midwives in England are under-valued, under-resourced and over-stretched.
She added that the response from such a huge number of midwives willing to consider strike action should cause alarm in Government.
Official figures from the Office for National Statistics indicate that almost 700,000 babies are born annually in England. The threat of a strike will raise fears among pregnant women who will be concerned about the impact on a safe delivery.
The dispute was initiated by an annual pay rise of up to 1% made to midwives during April of this year. They dismissed this as derisory.
A full-time midwife, with five years’ experience, earns £29,759, but since many work part-time and earn less. A new midwife working outside London starts on a salary of about £21,500.
About 20,000 midwives were asked if they would strike and almost 50% responded. Of the ones who responded two-thirds were prepared to take action if the dispute is not resolved.
An emergency meeting is set to take place over the next few weeks to make a decision about a strike, which could occur within months.
A Department of Health spokesman stated their disappointment at the consideration of industrial action by the unions. The department stated that the unions still have time to put the needs of patients first and accept the offer of negotiation.
Cathy Warwick placed emphasis on the fact that England’s midwives will always consider the mother and her baby first.
Image Credit: Dominic Sayers