How to stand up for high standards

By Executive Director of Trade Union Suzanne Tyler on 06 September 2022 NHS MSWs - Maternity Support Workers Safety Maternity Safety Pay

Standing up for high standards, can sometimes mean speaking out on culture and practices around you, speaking truth to power and sometimes making yourself unpopular. As a member of a trade union, we know it is important for individuals to be heard and collective action to take place. Speaking out for positive change is the bread and butter in a trade union. You do it knowing that you have the support of your colleagues, peers and other union members.

Together we continue to stand up to the UK governments and call out their failure to reward and respect midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs) by awarding a fair pay settlement. Only with a strong member voice can RCM stand up for higher pay. This shows in the recent pay consultations in Scotland, Wales and England, in which a significant majority rejected the pay award or offer set out by the respective Government. We have seen responses like no other RCM pay consultation before, which truly goes to show there is strength in numbers. We will continue to keep members updated on the next steps in the coming days and weeks.

Together we also continue to call out the NHS and Government in England about the crisis in midwifery staffing. Midwife numbers have actually been decreasing month on month as demoralised and burnt out skilled professionals feel they can give no more. We have come up with a range of solutions: embrace flexible working; pause the requirement to implement Continuity of Carer; improve support for newly qualified midwives; support the development of MSWs and apprenticeships and of course make good the last 10 years of pay cuts.

Instead we have policies that smack of desperation, bringing nurses (best estimates 35,000 shortage) into maternity and even recruiting midwives from countries where there is a shortage. This is immoral and unethical and we will call it out.

Midwives and MSWs are also daily standing up for high standards where they see safety being compromised.  A recent Sunday Times article reported high numbers of whistle blowing reports coming from maternity.  Everyone has a responsibility to create the environment where issues and concerns can be raised without fear or favour and your trade union is here to support you.  We have guidance – but remember

  • Share your concerns with your workplace rep or your regional/national officer
  • Find a copy of your employer’s policy on raising concerns
  • Be clear about the requirements of your professional code
  • Be clear about what you are concerned about and why
  • Place your concerns on record with your immediate line manager, matron or Head of Midwifery
  • Be prepared to have meetings to discuss
  • If you remain concerned contact your Freedom to Speak up Guardian
  • If after all this you are considering whistle blowing seek RCM advice first

Standing up for high standards does not have to be a lonely place – women’s organisations are now supporting the RCM in our call out on shortages and your colleagues will support you if you are calling out safety issues in your workplace.  When we act together we can achieve real change.