RCM to consult Northern Ireland members on industrial action
The RCM board has agreed to consult its midwife and MSW members in Northern Ireland on whether they are prepared to take industrial action up to and including strike action over pay.
The move by the RCM comes after pay for midwives and MSWs in Northern Ireland has fallen behind the rest of the UK. For example, a midwife in Northern Ireland at the top of pay Band 6 (the pay band most experienced midwives will be in) will earn over £2000 less than her colleagues at the same level in England.
The current situation has arisen due to the lack of a functioning government in Northern Ireland, and despite the RCM and other unions asking the UK government to intervene to break the deadlock.
RCM members in England, Scotland and Wales have voted to accept a three-year pay deal, which is now being implemented.
Funding for similar increases for midwives and other health professionals in Northern Ireland has been made available from the UK Treasury through the Barnett Formula. But officials in Westminster and Northern Ireland will not even negotiate on pay because they say there is no government to implement any agreement.
The pay deal also includes reform of the Agenda for Change (AfC) agreement. This is the contractual agreement for NHS midwives and other health staff. The AfC reforms improve starting salaries and make it quicker to reach the top of pay bands.
The consultation announced today (15 November) will run until 23 November and the result will be considered by the RCM board, who will make decisions about the next steps.
RCM executive director for external relations Jon Skewes said the mood among RCM members in Northern Ireland is ‘palpably angry’.
‘They are working ever harder, yet seeing their pay falling significantly in real terms. They are seeing their colleagues in other UK countries receiving pay increases, including the recent three-year pay deal, and they are not. This is clearly unjust and unfair.
‘Politicians in Westminster and Northern Ireland are sending a signal that they neither care about nor value midwives and other health staff in Northern Ireland. This situation is having an incredibly demoralising effect on our members.’
Jon added that pay for midwives and MSWs in Northern Ireland must be addressed as a matter of urgency as recruitment and retention of midwives is already a real issue, which will only be exacerbated if this situation is allowed to continue.
He said: ‘I call again upon politicians and senior civil servants in Westminster and in Northern Ireland to sort this out. I urge them to negotiate and seek a solution with the unions, and to bring midwives and their colleagues in Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK.
‘We are not taking this consultation lightly; moves such as this are the last resort. There is still time to resolve this and give our members the pay deal they deserve.’
Other health unions in Northern Ireland will also be consulting their members.