Second strike shows strength of feeling on pay for members in Northern Ireland

on 24 January 2024 Midwives Midwifery Maternity Services MSWs - Maternity Support Workers RCM Member RCM Director For Northern Ireland Northern Ireland RCM Northern Ireland Industrial Action Pay Newly Qualified Midwives Government

Below freezing temperatures and snowy conditions did not deter hundreds of RCM members in Northern Ireland from taking to the picket lines last Thursday. Midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs) certainly did not allow the weather conditions to freeze their spirits or the fight for better pay.

Even newly qualified midwives on their first day as midwives joined their colleagues and walked out, with one telling the RCM, Having trained in maternity services for the past three years. I am so sad to see that morale is at an all-time low and staff have been pushed to the absolute limit, that’s why I’m here today.”

2014 was the first ever strike in the history of the RCM in Northern Ireland, fast forward a decade and RCM members have now been on strike twice in less than 6 months.

Midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs) in Northern Ireland are already the lowest paid in the UK. The lack of a functioning Executive has also meant hardworking members have faced the cost-of-living crisis without the below inflation pay award made to their counterparts in the England and Wales.

Despite there being a budget and money set aside from Westminster for a public sector pay award, it can’t be awarded with no functioning Executive.

According to RCM’s Director for Northern Ireland, Karen Murray that is something that has ‘severely frustrated and understandably upset our members’.

“It’s so unfortunate that we had to strike again, but I was so proud of our members, and it was honour to stand beside them on the picket line. It absolutely should never have come to this, but as I’ve said before our patience has run out, our members deserve a fair and decent pay rise. Morale is low, but coming together to take stand, to walk out is something that has sent a strong message to the UK Government and our politicians,” she said.

The RCM was one of 16 trade unions that took part in the day of industrial action, and it’s estimated that over 140,000 healthcare staff and public sector workers in total walked out together.

Catherine Spence, a maternity sister at Antrim Area Hospital, said, ‘for midwives to strike it’s a really big deal’.

Catherine added: “We work in healthcare for a reason. We want to look after people, we want to make it safe, we want to give the women and their babies everything that we have. That's what we go into work for. That's why we love our jobs, but it's so demoralising to think that somebody else is getting paid more than us to do the exact same job, to face the exact same pressures.

“My colleagues are burnt out, but they are doing extra hours because they need the money to pay for things. No one wants to do all those extra hours, but they are covering for their friends who are not well; they're having to pay for childcare.”

The RCM says it will continue to campaign for a fair and equitable pay award for all its members in Northern Ireland.

Karen added: “We are committed to finding a resolution to this pay dispute for our members. The battle is far from over. Midwives and MSWs deserve the very best achievable outcome, they’ve been more than patient. For now, our work and collaboration with other public sector unions across Northern Ireland will continue. Further industrial action may also have to be considered if the pay award continues to be withheld.”


Members can keep up to date on any developments and find out how to get involved in in the Deliver A Decent Deal campaign here.

Watch RCM member Emma Creagh’s interview with CoolFM News here