Next Thursday, 23rd June, we will make a decision that we will live with for years – whether or not the UK remains a member of the European Union. It’s a big decision that none of us should take lightly. After having given it a lot of thought, the RCM has backed “Remain” in the EU. There are clear positive reasons why sticking with the EU is good for pregnant women, for working people and the NHS.
European rules guarantee not only maternity leave but also that pregnant women must be given paid time off to attend antenatal classes. Europe also provides for additional protections for pregnant women against being sacked by unscrupulous bosses. Some politicians are desperate to strip workers of these and other rights, but so long as we remain in the EU they cannot be taken away. Sticking with the EU is the best, safest option for protecting rights for pregnant women in work.
The definition of a midwife is also written into EU law, meaning the status of the profession is protected right across the continent. Minimum requirements for training are also written down at the European level, ensuring better training standards across Europe. All this helps protect the profession. Out of the EU, any future government could weaken the profession, even letting those with little training start to use the title of “midwife”.
EU protection of rights for working people, including midwives and maternity support workers, goes even further. Guaranteed minimum paid holiday leave entitlement, protections for people who work part-time, rules on safe working conditions (for example to protect NHS staff from needle stick injuries), and equal pay for women – all of these things are shielded by EU rules. If we vote “Leave” on Thursday, the Prime Minister is likely to go and we could see an even more right-wing government sneak into power without an election; they would launch a full-scale assault on workers’ rights. Nothing would be guaranteed. Everything would be up for abolition. Any protection those rights had thanks to the EU would of course be gone.
Inside the EU, your rights are protected. Outside the EU, anything could happen.
For the NHS it continues to be true that you are more likely to be cared for by an EU migrant working for the NHS than you are to be behind one in the queue waiting for NHS care. The nasty, tawdry campaign by some parts of the press to make us hate and despise those other Europeans who live here and who work with us is despicable. I dearly hope that a few days from now that narrow, negative outlook is rejected by voters in this referendum.
There is every indication that a vote to leave the EU would trigger economic shockwaves that would hit us hard. There is a gargantuan risk to our economy if we vote to leave. That isn’t scaremongering, it’s fact; even when the Leave campaign just gets a lead in an opinion poll we see billions wiped off share prices and the pound fall in value. This economic hit will lead to less money for the Government to spend on public services including the NHS, as well as hitting all of us in the pocket. Less money means fewer midwives, fewer MSWs and even more years of pay freezes and maybe even cuts to your pension too.
How you vote is, of course, a personal decision for you to make. There will be midwives and MSWs who vote to remain, others who vote to leave, and others still who don’t vote. You should make up your own mind and cast your vote as you wish. But it is important that we say that in the judgment of the RCM the best outcome in this referendum would be for the United Kingdom to remain a member of the European Union.