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Midwives in Northern Ireland will be asked to vote on industrial action as a battle for fair pay for health staff across the country intensifies.
Following a board meeting today, the Royal College of Midwives has made the unanimous decision to formally ballot midwives and maternity support workers.
“The RCM has not taken the decision to ballot our members lightly”
The vote is set to take place in January 2020.
The RCM is following the lead of unions the Royal College of Nursing and Unison whose members have both voted in favour of industrial action and are due to go on strike before the end of 2019.
For the RCN it will be the first time its members have taken such action anywhere across in UK in its 103-year history.
The dispute is over pay disparity for health professionals in Northern Ireland compared to the rest of the UK countries, and staffing shortages.
Karen Murray, RCM director for Northern Ireland, said midwives in the country were earning £2,000 less than their colleagues in England and “even less” when compared to Scotland.
“The RCM has not taken the decision to ballot our members lightly, but after eight months of talks with the Department of Health a fair and decent resolution for our members cannot be found,” she added.
She said the RCM was willing to negotiate with the Department of Health but warned that it would not back down when it came to achieving pay parity.
“This will be the best offer possible within the budget available”
Department for Health spokesman
“Midwives and MSWs in Northern Ireland deliver high quality care to women and their families, often in understaffed and pressured services and paying them less is not only unjust, but also creates a strong feeling that they are not valued,” said Ms Murray.
“We should be doing all we can to make midwifery as a profession more attractive in order to retain and recruit staff and paying them less than they deserve will not achieve this.”
The Department of Health has reiterated its previous statement regarding the ongoing pay dispute.
In the statement, a spokesman said the department “remains focused” on finding a resolution and was finalising a formal pay offer for 2019-20.
“This will be the best offer possible within the budget available, but the reality is that our ability to address pay issues is inevitably constrained at a time of intense budgetary pressures for health and social care services,” he added.
He noted that there was “no untapped source of funding that we can access” and as such any extra cash committed to one budget would be money lost from another.
In November 2018, the RCM consulted members on the issue and 95% said they would be willing to strike.
How Nursing Times has covered the dispute so far: