Health crisis: Midwives and other professionals to vote on strike action

Nurses on a picket line at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast on December 18Nurses on a picket line at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast on December 18
Nurses on a picket line at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast on December 18
Midwives and a range of other allied health professionals could soon be set to join the ongoing industrial action across the Northern Ireland health service.

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM), which represents 90% of those employed in the profession in Northern Ireland, opened the ballot today with a firm recommendation to members to vote in favour of possible strike action.

This comes as professionals in working in other key areas of the health service such as radiography and physiotherapy prepare to open ballots next week.

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The Society of Radiographers is due to open a ballot on possible industrial action on January 16, while the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists is due to open its ballot on the 13th.

Both unions, in addition to those already engaged in industrial action such as Nipsa, Unite, Unison and the Royal College of Nursing, are demanding health workers here are paid at the same rate as those working elsewhere in the UK.

Karen Murray, the RCM’s director for Northern Ireland, said: “We have exhausted every avenue over a number of years in trying to resolve this dispute with the Department of Health.

“Despite our best efforts to negotiate a fair pay deal for our members the department have failed to come to an agreement.”

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She added: “Our midwives here are much worse off in their pay packet than their colleagues in other parts of the UK. This is simply neither right nor fair. That is why we are recommending our members to vote yes to industrial action.”

The Royal College has published a table on its website showing pay rates in Northern Ireland, England and Wales, and Scotland.

Across every pay band, midwives are worse off financially than those living in the rest of the UK – and sometimes the difference in salary is several thousand pounds.

Ms Murray added: “This is a decision taken after a great deal of thought and consideration. Midwives and MSWs (maternity support workers) work incredibly hard to provide safe and high-quality care for women, babies and their families.

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“A yes vote in this ballot will show employers that they have exhausted the goodwill of our midwives and MSWs that has kept our maternity services going. It is time to take a stand for fair pay.”

The Society of Radiographers say they will also recommend members vote in favour of strike action, while the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists is making no recommendation.