Midwives and maternity support workers in England have overwhelmingly said they are prepared to take industrial action over NHS pay in a consultation exercise.
The Royal College of Midwives will now decide whether to hold a formal ballot on taking industrial action.
“The sense of anger and frustration among midwives is palpable”
The consultation exercise, which closed on Friday, asked NHS midwives and maternity support workers if they were prepared to take industrial action.
It is the first time the college has consulted members over industrial action.
Over 94% of midwives who responded to the consultation said they would consider industrial action of “some kind” over pay. In total 46.5% of the RCM’s members responded to the consultation.
The RCM will take the results to an extraordinary meeting of its board in the next few weeks.
A decision will then be made there about whether the RCM will take the unprecedented step of moving to a formal ballot of its members on industrial action – though it seems unlikely it will include the option of striking.
RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick said: “The sense of anger and frustration among midwives is palpable. This response from our members highlights just how unfairly they have been treated.
“Midwives and other health workers are seeing their pay falling in real terms as their pay stagnates, pension contributions increase and the cost of living rises,” she said.
However, she noted that midwives would “always think of the woman and her baby first” and “any action we might take will not affect the safety of women and their babies”.
Professor Warwick added: “There is a solution to this and that is for the government to return to the negotiating table with the RCM and other unions and reconsider their position.
“This is the first time in the history of the RCM that midwives and maternity support workers have come to the conclusion that industrial action is their last resort.”
The move follows the government decision to reject the recommendations of the independent NHS Pay Review Body to award all staff a 1% consolidated increase. Instead ministers offered a 1% rise to only those at the top of pay bands but not to those due an increment rise.
At their healthcare conference in April, members of Unison voted overwhelmingly in favour of moving to a ballot on industrial action, including the possibility of strikes. However, a date for this ballot is still yet to be announced nearly three months later.
Meanwhile, Unite is currently holding similar consultation exercise to the RCM on whether to ballot for action.
In contrast to some of the rhetoric from the other unions, the leader of the Royal College of Nursing used a keynote speech last month to steer members away from strike action over pay.
Peter Carter advised RCN members to “think carefully” before calling for a strike ballot, and instead advocated alternative forms of action such as lobbying MPs and protests.