Delivering support and care to members in Northern Ireland

By RCM National Officer Anne Wilson, RCM on 25 October 2023 RCM UK Research Safety Women

Following the industrial action taken by members in Northern Ireland on 22 September, RCM’s National Officer Anne Wilson shares the impact this has had on strengthening the call for fair pay and a maternity strategy with overwhelming outsider support.  

On 22 September RCM members across services in Northern Ireland took part in industrial action to show dedication and unwavering commitment to women, babies and families across the country. This was not a decision that any one of our members took lightly but with courage they stood up for their services – for fair pay and for better investment when it comes to valuing staff.

The RCM has been steadfast in its fight for fair pay over the past few years and hit a crescendo on the day of industrial action, a noise that hit the hearts and minds of so many supporters in the country and across the UK. The media was ablaze with stories of our strikers and quotes from RCM representatives including our Director for Northern Ireland Karen Murray and RCM Chief Executive Gill Walton.

The media coverage has extensively covered our cause, shedding light on the crucial issues that members face. This includes pay parity with England and Wales, safe staffing levels, retention and recruitment and the need for a Maternity Strategy to set out a framework with attached funding, to lead our maternity services into the future. This attention and support shows how our impact can make a difference.

One of the stand out moments for me was definitely the overwhelming support from the public when industrial action was taken. From the beeping of cars driving past, to the cheering of people walking past or raising fists and nodding their heads, to all the women and babies who came by to stand with us. It was incredible to see all that support and care given back in heaps to our midwives and MSWs who work so hard to give it every single day.

We also saw support from six Trust Chief Executives in a letter, which added significant weight and emphasis to our urgent call to address pay disparities faced by midwives and MSWs.

This brings me to the next phase of the campaign as we encourage members to write to your Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs). We want follow up answers to what action they are taking to address the crucial issues midwives and MSWs face. We have taken action but now we want to hear from them. Your voice will help keep the momentum and will help keep the pressure on our elected politicians to return to Stormont. Write to your MLA here.

Looking ahead, the RCM is continuing to work collaboratively with affiliated unions, which includes a further meeting with the Secretary of State (SOS) to also keep the pressure on. The RCM will continue to fight for members so that they receive a decent deal and one that starts to make up for years of pay restraint.

I want to say a heartfelt thank you to all the members who took part in the industrial action and the members who supported action in keeping services going on 22 September. You should be very proud of what has been achieved. As we move onto another phase of the campaign, let us not forget the enormous force of support behind us.