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Midwives' ultimatum to Executive: talk to us or we will keep on striking

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 01/05/2015

Midwives in Northern Ireland have promised to continue industrial action over a pay row after their first strike in the Royal College of Midwives' (RCM) 134-year history.

The RCM, however said it hoped that the Executive would enter into negotiations and reach an agreement "instead of remaining with their heads buried in the sand".

During the strike period, two babies were born in the Belfast Trust, three babies arrived in the Ulster area and one in the Antrim Area Hospital.

Further actions are planned between May 1 and May 7, and RCM members will only work the hours they are paid for.

Breedagh Hughes, director for Northern Ireland at the RCM, said she was "overwhelmed" by the response to the strike action.

"Given the strength of feeling amongst our members, I hope employers and the Executive will negotiate with us and reach an agreement instead of remaining with their heads buried in the sand," she added.

"That they do not value our midwives and other health workers is obvious and, quite frankly, shameful.

"Many of our members are over £4,000 worse off than a few years ago because of cost-of-living increases. All they are asking for is a very modest 1% pay award. The political leaders have taken health workers' dedication and commitment and thrown it back in their faces. It is, quite frankly, a disgrace.

"This path is folly on the part of the Executive because it will cost them more in the long-run as our members claim for working overtime - work many of our members have always done without payment. I repeat my appeal to employers and the Executive to meet with us and negotiate."

The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety said midwives in Northern Ireland provided "excellent care" to mothers and their families.

"However, there is pressure within our health system and there is a difficult financial year ahead with hard decisions about the provision of health and social services," a spokeswoman added.

"While we would like to be in a position to have done more in 2014/15, it is important to recognise midwives and other non-medical staff received a minimum of 1% extra, with the average rise through incremental progression being 3.7%, and some staff receiving 6.7% more."

The statement also said that the "door will always be open for discussion" about pay increases for 2015-16.

Factfile

Midwives have gone on strike for the first time in their history.

The four-hour walkout, which began at 8am yesterday, led to picket lines at main hospital sites across Northern Ireland. It was sparked by the exclusion of staff here from a 1% pay rise awarded to colleagues in England and Wales. Plans were put in place to ensure mothers-to-be and their babies were safe. Several babies were born during the industrial action, but none was adversely affected.

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