First strike ballot in Wales in 142 years launched by Royal College of Midwives
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has today launched its first ballot on industrial action in Wales in its142 year history.
The College, which represents most midwives and also maternity support workers (MSWs) in the UK, is calling on its members to vote yes to industrial action in England and Wales over pay.
The RCM’s 30,000 eligible members working in the NHS in England and Wales will be asked two questions: whether they are prepared to take industrial action short of a strike, and whether they are prepared to take strike action.
The postal ballot is due to close at midday on 12 December.
The move comes after a consultation which saw RCM members overwhelmingly reject the Westminster and Welsh Governments’ below-inflation 4% pay award.
Two-thirds of eligible members in England and more than eight out of 10 in Wales took part in the consultation, with three-quarters (75%) saying they wanted to be balloted on industrial action.
RCM’s Executive Director Trade Union, Dr Suzanne Tyler, said: “Midwives and MSWs have been pushed to the brink, with this latest pay award being the last straw for many.
“It clearly shows that governments do not value the skills, dedication, and incredible commitment of midwives and MSWs.
“It also shows that they either don’t understand or simply don’t care about the financial pressures facing our members and their NHS colleagues. It is scandalous and shameful that in one of the world’s richest countries we have highly trained professionals having to use food banks to feed their families and think hard about whether they turn the heating on.
“The decision to take industrial action will not be one midwives and MSWs take lightly. But they clearly feel they have no other recourse than this.”
The RCM has reassured both maternity staff and women and families using maternity services that midwives and MSWs will not take any type of action that would put women or babies at risk.
The College says that, should its members vote for industrial action, members will not be asked to break their NMC code of conduct and safe services will be maintained. During previous strike action in 2014 ensuring the delivery of safe services remained paramount.
Suzanne Tyler added: “This is not just about pay; it is about the care NHS staff are able to deliver. There is a massive and worsening shortage of midwives, rising vacancy rates in England and growing staffing pressures in Wales.
“Our own members told us last year that more than half of midwives were thinking of leaving the NHS: now that thought is becoming reality. The Governments in Wales and Westminster must do far more to retain staff and bring others into the NHS and making a meaningful pay offer and an urgent retention package is a good place to start.
“Investing in NHS pay is an investment in staff and an investment in better care for women, babies, and families.”
RCM members in Scotland have already voted in overwhelming numbers to take industrial action.
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