Standing Together – in Anger not Despair

By Suzanne Tyler, Executive Director of Service to Members on 29 April 2022 Midwives NHS MSWs - Maternity Support Workers Caring For You campaign Caring For You Charter Race matters

This week I formally took over as the Executive Director for the Trade Union at the RCM. Jon Skewes, who has been a force for building the RCM into a strong and progressive trade union, able to punch above our weight with employers, policy makers and among other trade unions, has retired after 23 years. To carry on this legacy, I am joined by Alice Sorby, who leads our national negotiations and employment relations, and Lynn Collins, who is leading and galvanising our delivery of local services to members. Together we are committed to building confident collective action to lead midwives and MSWs out of the hard times of the last two years.

At my first TUC General Council meeting this week, I joined the UK’s leading trade unions. Three things dominated those discussions and they are all hugely important to RCM members.

The impact of the cost-of-living crisis is being felt by all of us, but it’s hitting RCM members hard. This Government should be ashamed when community midwives can’t afford to put petrol in their cars because the increase in fuel prices has not been reflected in mileage allowances; when midwives and MSWs are using foodbanks or leaving because they can earn better money in Asda; when free car parking has been withdrawn and we are still fighting for the extra bank holiday to be paid.

Quite frankly, enough is enough – we are not prepared to sit quietly while our members take battering after battering. That is why, on Saturday 18 June, we will be joining the TUC’s day of action.– We will be standing together with health workers, teachers, communication workers and those in manufacturing to demand better. This has got to be a springboard for action and there is strength in numbers, so get your branch together, talk to your RCM organiser and regional officer and make your plans to join us in London. We’ll be sharing more details in next week’s activists newsletter, so if you haven’t signed up for that – or updated your preferences to ensure you get them – please do it now.

The struggle for race equality remains at the top of the TUC agenda and the RCM’s. I am delighted that we have appointed our first Head of Equality Diversity and Inclusion, Jane Bekoe, who has achieved so much in the last year as our Race Matters project midwife. For me, learning what it takes to be an anti-racist ally and stand in solidarity with our Black, Asian and minority ethnic members is a significant part of being a trade unionist. Catch up on all of our work here.

And finally, solidarity with the people and workers of Ukraine was heartfelt. I think we all shared the pain when we saw images of a maternity unit being shelled, while the news that more than 215 children have died underlines the scale of this humanitarian catastrophe. International solidarity has always been fundamental to being a trade union and we know that in any war it is working people and women who pay the highest price. The RCM has been standing alongside and contributing to European collective trade union fundraising to provide much needed support and relief and I know many of your units have been contributing too.

Higher wages, better jobs and stronger rights: these are the things that together we are fighting for. Join us.