Maternity staff fight for fairness and safety as they take to picket lines across Northern Ireland

on 22 September 2023 RCM Maternity Services Midwifery Midwives Government NHS RCM Scotland Scotland Scottish Government Scottish Maternity Services Safety Safe high quality care Staffing Levels

Midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs) across Northern Ireland will be taking to the picket lines this morning (22 September), as the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) takes strike action in frustration at the ongoing political stalemate.

Karen Murray, Director of RCM Northern Ireland, said:

“Six months ago, we paused strike action in good faith, because we were invited by the Secretary of State to meet to discuss HSC pay. In those six months, all that’s happened is that midwives and maternity support workers have become the lowest paid in the UK and their frustration with politicians has reached an all-time high. None of us wants to be on the picket line today, but what choice do we have?”

Despite pay settlements being reached in England, Wales and Scotland, there is no such agreement in Northern Ireland. The RCM is hoping today’s action will demonstrate the deep sense of anger among midwives and MSWs and bring politicians back round the negotiating table.

Karen continued:

“The lack of any movement is frankly disrespectful, not only to the midwives and MSWs taking action today, but to the women and families they work so hard to care for. Those women deserve better than to have their care treated like a political football. Politicians and policy-makers need to get back around the negotiating table and sort this out.”

The RCM is also reassuring women and families that they have worked with the five Trusts in Northern Ireland to ensure care will continue to be delivered to those who need it during the industrial action.

Karen concluded:

“You will see a lot of frustration on the picket lines today, but you’ll also see a lot of sorrow, genuine despair at where we find ourselves. What we are fighting for here is safety and fairness. The safety of our maternity services is reliant on midwives and MSWs, but if we don’t pay them fairly, they will leave. It’s as simple and as stark as that – and we’re already seeing it happen. Politicians can stem that tide – and they need to do it now.”