Tomorrow morning members of the Royal College of Midwives will start industrial action with a four-hour strike, from 8am-12pm, over pay in Northern Ireland.
It will be followed by further action from 1-7 May that will consist of RCM members only working overtime if it is agreed they will be paid for it, and taking all the breaks they are entitled to.
“There is still time to avert this action; to talk, negotiate and reach an agreement”
College members voted earlier this month to go on strike, in response to the Northern Ireland Executive’s rejection of the NHS Pay Review Body’s recommendation of a 1% pay rise last year and no announcement about pay for this year for health and social care staff in Northern Ireland.
It is the first time in its 134-year history that members of the RCM in Northern Ireland have voted to strike and, if the action goes ahead, will mark a similar historic moment as when midwives went on strike in England last year.
Speaking ahead of strike action tomorrow, Breedagh Hughes, RCM director for Northern Ireland, said there was still time to “avert this action”.
“I ask politicians and employers to think of the pressure midwives have been under for years,” she said. “I ask them to think of the responsibility midwives have every single day, caring for both mother and baby. And I ask them to think how it feels to those same midwives when, despite all that, they are told they aren’t worth a 1% pay rise.”
She added that striking was “not a step that our midwife and maternity support worker members take lightly”.
“They have been treated shoddily by the executive and employers, who have left them with no alternative but to make a stand,” said Ms Hughes. “The cost of living is rising sharply and this is set against a history of pay restraint and pay freezes.”
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The planned strike is the latest development in a drawn out dispute over NHS pay in Northern Ireland, which has outlasted similar situations in England and Wales.
It follows the rejection of a recommended 1% pay rise last year, with only staff at the top of pay bands offered the increase, and no announcement about pay for this year.
Agreements on pay have been reached with the governments in England following industrial action, and in Wales following negotiation. The Scottish Government accepted the pay review body’s recommendations in full.