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Midwives back pay dispute strike

Midwives in England have voted to go on strike in a bitter dispute with the Government over pay.

Members of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) backed walkouts by 82%, and other forms of industrial action by 94%.

Midwives will join other health workers by going on strike for four hours on October 13.

It was the first time the college balloted for industrial action, and it will be the first time in its 133 year history that members will go on strike.

The action is in protest at the Government controversial decision not to pay all NHS staff a 1% pay rise, as recommended by the independent Pay Review Body.

Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the RCM, said: "This is a resounding 'yes' from our members. It could not send a clearer signal about the level of discontent on this issue to those denying them a very modest 1% pay increase.

"Our members have suffered three years of pay restraint and face the prospect that their pay in 2016 will only be 1% higher than it was in 2010. The recommendations from all public sector pay review bodies have been followed except those for health workers. This is not acceptable.

"There is still time to come back to the negotiating table and to take a more reasonable position on the PRB recommendation.

"The RCM will be meeting with employers to discuss our action and to ensure that mothers and babies are not put at any risk. I want to reassure women expecting a baby that midwives will continue to look after them and that they will be safe. "

Turnout in the RCM ballot was 49.4%.

The college said it will work with other unions to co-ordinate action.

Members of Unite and Unison have voted over the past week to take action, and will strike for four hours on October 13, followed by other forms of industrial action.

Council workers will strike on October 14 and civil servants a day later in separate disputes with the coalition.

The three days of strikes in October will be followed by other forms of industrial action, as well as a national demonstration on October 18 organised by the TUC, under the banner, Britain Needs A Pay Rise.

Several unions are now organising strikes against the Government's public sector policies on pay, jobs, and services, while disputes involving firefighters and teachers remain unresolved.

In Scotland, the devolved government has agreed to pay the 1% rise to all NHS staff as recommended by the PRB and to implement the living wage by paying an extra £300 to low paid workers.

Progress has also been made in talks with the Welsh government.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "We are disappointed that RCM is planning industrial action and has rejected our proposals to give NHS staff at least 1% additional pay this year and at least a further 1% next year.

"NHS staff are our greatest asset, and we've increased the NHS budget to pay for thousands more clinical staff since 2010, including more than 1,700 more midwives since May 2010. We want to protect these increases and cannot afford a pay rise on top of increments - which disproportionately reward the highest earners - without risking frontline jobs."

"We remain keen to meet with the unions to discuss how we can work together to make the NHS pay system fairer."

Gill Bellord, director of employment relations and reward at the NHS employers organisation, said: "It is regrettable that members of the Royal College of Midwives have agreed to take industrial action along with some of the other NHS trades unions.

"Employers will be concerned that this industrial action could worry pregnant women.

"However we welcome indications from the RCM that its members will continue to provide cover on maternity wards and work with local employers now to ensure that services can be maintained safely on the day of the proposed action."

A spokesman for NHS England said: "NHS organisations have tried and tested plans to deal with a range of disruptions including industrial action.

"We are working with the NHS to ensure there are robust plans for October 13 that protect the safety, welfare and service provided to patients."

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