‘Midwives and Maternity Support Workers have every right to strike’ say RCM

on 09 December 2023 Midwifery Midwives Midwifery Workforce Maternity Services NHS Government England MSWs - Maternity Support Workers NHS Staff On Employment Midwife Shortage NHS England Staffing Levels Stress TUC Workplace representatives Industrial Action

Midwives and Maternity Support Workers (MSW’s) have every right to strike – that’s the message coming from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) at the TUC Special Congress.

Speaking at the Special Congress RCM’s General Secretary Gill Walton outlined the RCM’s support for the TUCs campaign against minimum service levels in the event of industrial action. Expressing indignation at the suggestion that Midwives and Maternity Support Workers (MSW’s) would take strike action that endangers the safety of women.

“How dare this government suggest that. The number one priority for all midwives and MSW’s is always the safety and health of the women and families they support every day across the UK. When we have taken strike action, for example in England in 2014, and as recently as last year in Northern Ireland we worked together with local managers and  absolutely ensured that safety was never compromised. Striking midwives responded when emergencies arose with professionalism and integrity.”

Gill argued that it was vital for the Government to address the root causes of the need for midwives and other health care workers to take industrial action rather than continuing to legislate against it.

“Rather than fixating on minimum service levels their time and energy would be better spent investing in our maternity services so that families could be guaranteed minimum services levels to allow them to choose where and how they give birth  - providing safe staffing levels so home births and midwifery led units were options for all and high quality and ensuring  accessible ante natal and post-natal care.

“Let’s be clear - the NHS is 2500 midwives short, with staff in the service regularly working 100,000 hour a week of unpaid overtime. This is an intolerable situation and if it doesn’t improve there won’t be any midwives left to fill the ‘quotas’ set by the government.

The RCM also highlighted that any legal compulsion placed on midwives forcing them to work against their will during periods of lawful strike would place a significant burden on women compared to men.

“According to the latest equality, diversity and inclusion report from the Nursing and Midwifery Council, women make up over 99% of the midwifery workforce, a figure that has been steady for several years. Therefore any legal mandatory staffing levels therefore would have a vastly have a disproportionate effect on women.”

More information on the TUC Congress is at https://www.tuc.org.uk/special-congress

See also:

Midwives on the register doesn’t mean midwives in post, says RCM

Midwives give 100,000 hours of free labour to the NHS per week to keep England’s maternity services safe says RCM

Numberjacks: New calculations reveal growing midwife shortage