'Exhausted and undervalued': Welsh midwives vote to strike over 'unacceptable' pay offer

Campaigners from March with Midwives say pregnant women are being put at risk.
Julie Richards, Director for Wales at the RCM, said the decision to take industrial action is a last resort and shows just how 'desperate they are for policy makers to listen.' Credit: PA

Midwives in Wales have voted to take industrial action over pay, it has been announced.

More than 95% of midwives and maternity support workers in Wales the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) voted for industrial action short of a strike, based on a turnout of 55% of eligible members.

More than nine out of 10 (just over 91%) of the RCM voted in favour of strike action.

It comes as nurses in all but one NHS employer in Wales have voted to go on strike for the first time in history, with staff warning of a "desperate situation".

Julie Richards, Director for Wales at the RCM, said: “Midwives and MSWs in Wales are exhausted. The disappointing and unacceptable 4% pay offer simply reinforced their feelings of being overlooked and undervalued.

"Taking industrial action is always a last resort, and the decision taken by our members today shows just how desperate they are for policy makers to listen. The Welsh Government must now do so to get maternity services in Wales back on track and to stop the inevitable exodus of demoralised staff.”

Why do Welsh midwives want to strike?

  • The RCM says that while pay is the focus of this dispute is it is about much more than that.

  • Its members are also concerned about rising demands in maternity services coupled with dwindling resources. This is having an impact on the quality of care maternity staff can deliver for women pushing many to consider leaving.

Julie Richards added: “This vote is a sign of the growing crisis in maternity services.

"We outlined what is needed in our Blueprint for Welsh maternity services last year. We need to see more urgent action to tackle the issues it raised and to implement the solutions it put forward. Our members have not come to this decision lightly, indeed they will have taken it with very heavy hearts."

“At our conference in Newport in October the Welsh Health Minister said she understood why midwives might take industrial action. I will now be writing to her to ask what she and her Government are prepared to do to solve the problems at the root of this. "There is still time to avoid this action and for the Welsh Government to put an improved and meaningful pay offer on the table. This must recognise the serious and growing financial challenges our members face and begin to reverse years of real terms pay cuts.” 

What happens next?

  • Any decision to take industrial action must be approved by the RCM’s elected Board.

  • The RCM will now look at the result of the ballot and consider the next steps.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We recognise why so many NHS workers voted the way they did and we agree NHS Workers should be fairly rewarded for their important work. We also recognise the anger and disappointment many public sector workers are feeling at the moment.

“In Wales we value social partnership and we continue to meet the trade unions regularly to discuss a range of issues affecting the workforce. However, we are unable to increase our pay offer without additional funding being made available by the UK Government. NHS Wales organisations are exploring all options to ensure there will be a safe level of staffing, with life-saving and life-maintaining care being provided during any industrial action.”

It was announced last week that the 4% pay award is now being implemented in Northern Ireland. RCM members there were consulted on pay last month and nearly 90% said they would be prepared to take industrial action if the pay award was implemented.