IN A clear and defiant message to the Welsh Government, midwife and maternity support worker (MSW) members of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) have voted yes to taking industrial action over pay.
In the ballot that closed on Monday (Dec 12), over 95.14% voted for industrial action short of a strike, based on a turnout of 55.39% of eligible RCM Wales members.
On the question “are you prepared to take industrial action consisting of a strike?” more than nine out of 10 (91.46%) voted yes.
Julie Richards, Director for Wales at the RCM, said:
“Midwives and MSWs in Wales are exhausted. The disappointing and unacceptable 4% pay offer simply reinforced their feelings of being overlooked and undervalued.
“Taking industrial action is always a last resort, and the decision taken by our members today shows just how desperate they are for policy makers to listen. The Welsh Government must now do so to get maternity services in Wales back on track and to stop the inevitable exodus of demoralised staff.”
While pay is the focus of this dispute, it is about much more than that, says the RCM. Its members are also deeply concerned about rising demands in maternity services coupled with dwindling resources. This impacts the quality of care maternity staff can deliver for women, pushing many to consider leaving.
Julie Richards added: “This vote is a sign of the growing crisis in maternity services. We need to see more urgent action to tackle the issues raised and implement the solutions it put forward. Last year, we outlined what is necessary in our Blueprint for Welsh maternity services. Our members have not come to this decision lightly. Indeed, they will have taken it with very heavy hearts.
“At our conference in Newport in October the Welsh Health Minister said she understood why midwives might take industrial action. I will now be writing to her to ask what she and her Government are prepared to do to solve the problems at the root of this.
There is still time to avoid this action and for the Welsh Government to put an improved and meaningful pay offer on the table. This must recognise the serious and growing financial challenges our members face and begin to reverse years of real terms pay cuts.”
The RCM’s elected Board must approve any decision to take industrial action. The RCM will now look at the result of the ballot and consider the next steps.
Following a third and improved pay offer from the Scottish Government, RCM members are being consulted on whether to accept or reject it. The RCM has also balloted its Scotland members who voted yes to industrial action. This closes on Dec 15.
It was announced last week that the 4% pay award is now being implemented in Northern Ireland. RCM members there were consulted on pay last month. Nearly 90% said they would be prepared to take industrial action if the pay award was implemented.