Midwives and maternity staff have taken to the picket lines across Northern Ireland today (22 September) as part of coordinated strike action over low pay and government inaction.
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has announced the strike following a six-month pause in industrial action, which saw the group attempting to reach a pay settlement with the Secretary of State.
Karen Murray, Director of RCM Northern Ireland, said: “Six months ago, we paused strike action in good faith because we were invited by the Secretary of State to meet to discuss HSC pay.
“In those six months, all that’s happened is that midwives and maternity support workers have become the lowest paid in the UK and their frustration with politicians has reached an all-time high. None of us wants to be on the picket line today, but what choice do we have?”
The RCM argues that midwives and maternity support workers are the lowest paid in the UK and that strike action will ‘demonstrate the deep sense of anger among midwives.’
Murray added: “The lack of any movement is frankly disrespectful, not only to the midwives and MSWs taking action today but to the women and families they work so hard to care for.
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“Those women deserve better than to have their care treated like a political football. Politicians and policy-makers need to get back around the negotiating table and sort this out.”
The previous wave of strikes by Northern Irish midwives had initially been halted as negotiations with the secretary of state began, but the RCM vowed an escalation in strike action if no deal could be achieved.
However, the RCM has assured that it has worked with the five trusts in Northern Ireland to ensure care will continue to be delivered to those who need it.
Murray continued: “You will see a lot of frustration on the picket lines today, but you’ll also see a lot of sorrow, genuine despair at where we find ourselves. What we are fighting for here is safety and fairness.
“The safety of our maternity services is reliant on midwives and MSWs, but if we don’t pay them fairly, they will leave. It’s as simple and as stark as that – and we’re already seeing it happen. Politicians can stem that tide – and they need to do it now.”
The strike comes as junior doctors and consultants UK-wide stage strike action over low pay, the first joint strike action in the NHS’ history.