RCM to consult members in Northern Ireland on appetite for industrial action  

on 10 October 2022 RCM Maternity Services MSWs - Maternity Support Workers Midwives Pay NHS Pay Review Body Pay and Agenda For Change Industrial Action RCM Northern Ireland RCM Member Director For Northern Ireland Northern Ireland

“If no pay award was implemented, would you be prepared to take industrial action?” That’s one of the questions the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) will ask its members in Northern Ireland next week when it launches a formal consultation on pay.

The RCM says its ‘deeply frustrated’ and its ‘completely unfair’ that hardworking midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs) in Northern Ireland have been left in limbo about pay for so long. Despite Health Minister Robin Swann saying he is willing to accept the recommendations made by the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) due to the absence of a functioning Executive no progress has been made on pay.

In July the RCM described the PRB’s recommendation of 4% for staff at the top of Band 6 and Band 7* as ‘unacceptable’ as it was half the rate of inflation, as time has lapsed that’s worsened. If that was to be implemented now the RCM says it would now make no meaningful difference to its members given the rapidly rising cost of living crisis. 

Now left with no other choice the RCM says it will move to consult its members on their appetite for industrial action. The RCM says it believes to improve on the PRB recommendation of 4% for the majority of its members it would require all members to vote for industrial action, up to and including strike action in a legal postal ballot.

Commenting, RCM’s Director for Northern Ireland, Karen Murray said;

“The political impasse in Northern Ireland once again means our members are on the back foot when it comes to any firm commitment around a much needed pay award. Midwives and MSWs here just like all RCM members across the UK are now really feeling the impact of the cost of living crisis and are worried about rising energy costs. Talking to members I know and understand how worrying this is for them. Years of below inflation pay rises, hours of overtime worked for no extra pay to plug staffing gaps is really impacting our members. Some are already looking for the door, they’ve had enough, morale is low and they feel more undervalued than ever.”

One way to ensure staff feel valued is to ensure they are paid well, and pay is undoubtedly part of the solution to the recruitment and retention crisis says the RCM.

In May, this year the RCM launched its Blueprint for maternity services in Northern Ireland, one of the direct asks was for more midwives and greater investment in maternity services. The RCM says it continues to meet with politicians across Northern Ireland to discuss its Blueprint and are using every opportunity to raise the inaction on pay and the impact that’s having on RCM members.

Karen added:

“For months, the RCM has been working behind the scenes in an attempt to seek answers for our members around pay. When the PRB announced their recommendation we were alarmed as at the time that was less than half the rate of inflation, it's even worse now. We believe our members deserve a better deal. Together with other trade unions representing healthcare professionals across Northern Ireland we have applied pressure to get answers, and continue to do so, but at times we are shouting into the abyss due to the lack of a fully functioning Executive.

“We now have no other option, but to consult our members and gauge their appetite for industrial action. Next week we will be asking members working in the HSC about their willingness to take industrial action based on two potential outcomes, one being that no pay award is implemented or if the PRB recommendations are implemented.”

The RCM will launch its formal consultation with members working in the HSC on Thursday 20 October.


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About the RCM

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team.  We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance, and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences, and online resources. For more information visit the RCM | A professional organisation and trade union dedicated to serving the whole midwifery team