Midwives in Northern Ireland are to be balloted on potential strike action over pay.
The move comes days after nurses in the region confirmed that they would be striking on December 18 amid a dispute over pay rates and staffing shortages.
The board of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) met on Friday to discuss the issue.
Board members unanimously agreed to formally ballot midwives and maternity support workers with a view to taking industrial action in the coming months.
âRCM to ballot midwives on industrial action over fair pay in Northern Irelandâ https://t.co/bBjnpZrd8k @BossGSD @RcmNi #ballot #pay #fairpayoverdue #hscpay #midwives #msws #rcm pic.twitter.com/141ENORyUa— The RCM (@MidwivesRCM) November 15, 2019
Last year, the RCM consulted with its members on this issue and 95% of its membership in Northern Ireland said they would be willing to take strike action over fair pay.
RCM’s director for Northern Ireland Karen Murray said: “Pay for midwives and maternity support workers in Northern Ireland has fallen behind the rest of the UK with a midwife in Northern Ireland earning £2,000 less than their colleagues in England and even less when compared to midwives in 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.
“The Department of Health must understand the RCM and other unions are willing to negotiate, but they must accept pay parity with the rest of the UK for our members is crucial if we are to avoid industrial action in Health and social care services in Northern Ireland.
“Last year we consulted RCM members on this, and they told us they are willing to take strike action to demonstrate their anger over pay inequalities with their colleagues in other parts of the United Kingdom.
“Midwives and MSW’s 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.
“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 nurses’ walkout next month will last for 12 hours.
The department lacks both the authority and the budget to meet union demands for parityDepartment of Health
Three days of other industrial action, such as not working overtime or answering telephones, are also scheduled for next month and further protest is scheduled for next year.
The first day of industrial action will be December 3.
The action by the Royal College of Nurses comes amid a dispute with Health and Social Care (HSC) management in Northern Ireland over pay rates and staff shortages.
In response to the RCM announcement, a spokesman for the Department of Health said: “The issue of pay parity with other regions will be a matter for the next health minister to address.
“The decision to set localised NI pay rates was taken under devolution.
“The department lacks both the authority and the budget to meet union demands for parity.
“The health budget is under immense strain and we have made that clear publicly throughout the year.”