RCM urges England and Wales members to vote yes to industrial action as pay ballot opens

on 11 November 2022 Midwifery Midwives Midwifery Workforce Maternity Services NHS Government Industrial Action MSWs - Maternity Support Workers NHS Wales Pay and Agenda For Change RCM Wales RCM Safety Staffing Levels Wales Welsh Government

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) is calling on its midwife and maternity support worker members (MSW) to vote yes in the pay ballot opening today. The ballot - for RCM members working in the NHS in England and Wales - runs until midnight on 12 December.

All those eligible to vote should receive their postal ballot papers in the next few days. The RCM is urging its members to complete the ballot paper and post it back in the envelope provided as soon as possible to ensure their voices are heard.

RCM members in Scotland have already voted in overwhelming numbers in their ballot to take industrial action. In a turnout of 61% of eligible voters over 88% voted yes to taking industrial action consisting of a strike. On the question are you prepared to take industrial action short of a strike, 94.6% voted yes.

“I know you will not make the decision to take industrial action lightly, and neither do we. However, we feel that your and your RCM have been backed into a corner with your governments flatly refusing to offer you the inflation busting pay award you so richly deserve. There are no other options left to us to try to get you a decent pay deal, not the derisory and insulting 4% the Government have imposed on you,” said Alice Sorby, the RCM’s Director for Employment Relations. “I also know your first thought is for the women, babies, and families you care for and we will work with your employers to ensure services remain safe, as we did in previous industrial action.”

The move to a ballot follows a consultation which saw RCM members crushingly reject the Governments’ pay offer. Inflation is now over 10% and set to rise even higher. Two-thirds of RCM members in England and more than eight out of 10 in Wales took part in the consultation, with three-quarters (75%) saying they wanted to be balloted on industrial action.

The RCM wants to reassure members that in recommending a yes vote any subsequent industrial action would not ask midwives to break the NMC code. The RCM has also moved to reassure women and their families that should any industrial action go ahead the safety of women and their babies will be prioritised. When the RCM took action in 2014 and 2015, they maintained safe services.

In 2017 newly introduced trade union laws brought about more restrictions on trade unions and their members as to how and when they could take industrial action. One of those restrictions imposed a 50% turnout requirement on industrial action ballots. What this means is that 50% of members must vote in a ballot for it to be legal. That is why the RCM is asking every single member working in the NHS that receives ballot papers to vote yes for industrial action. 

“I am really urging members to take part in the ballot, to vote yes, and to have your say on pay. The more of you that take part in this ballot, the more powerful our message to governments is, and the more your voices are heard. This is also not just about pay, it is about the Government valuing all of you and your incredible skills, commitment and dedication and valuing maternity services and the care you all deliver to women, babies, and families. Spread the message to your colleagues so that they to can have their say on pay,” said Alice Sorby.

The RCM team will be visiting workplaces across England and Wales during the ballot to meet members. If any members have questions, please do speak to your RCM workplace representative. We are also urging members who may not ordinarily attend their local branch meetings to go along where they can. It’s so crucial everyone who can vote, votes. When you receive your ballot papers, don’t hesitate to fill them out and return them as soon as possible. We are also encouraging those who have voted to remind colleagues to do the same.

The ballot papers will be sent by an independent company called Civica. If they don’t arrive please ring 0300 303 0444 or email [email protected]. Ensure you post your ballot at least a few days before the closing date of 12 December 2022. Ballot papers received after that date cannot be counted. The RCM has also developed a helpful guide of FAQs for members who have more questions about what industrial action would look like.

For more information on the RCM’s pay campaign see the RCM England and Wales Pay Hub at England and Wales - NHS pay award and next steps (rcm.org.uk).

See also Midwives in England and Wales to be balloted on industrial action (rcm.org.uk).

More RCM media release and news stories on the pay campaign across the UK are at the links below.

RCM launches consultation with members to gauge appetite for industrial action over pay.

Below inflation pay award ‘unacceptable’ says RCM.

Four out of five NHS staff say pay is main reason they would quit their jobs (rcm.org.uk)