Gyda'n gilydd mewn undod – together in solidarity

By Julie Richards, RCM Director of Wales on 25 January 2023 Maternity Services RCM Trade Unions Wales Pay and Agenda For Change Welsh Government

RCM Director for Wales Julie Richards shares dates of action including strike action and action short of strike for midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs) working in the NHS, along with supporting resources, answers to frequently asked questions and a campaign pack for activists.

Earlier this week, we announced that midwife and maternity support worker (MSW) members working in the NHS in Wales will be taking strike action from 8am to 4pm on 7 February and action short of strike action from 4.01pm on 7 February until 14 February 8am.

I feel the sadness and frustration shared among members who have been keeping services afloat but can no longer bear the load. You are working long hours beyond what you are paid for, exhausted and fed up. The decision to take industrial action has not been an easy one for many of you but here we are – to stand our ground and make our voices heard. And I’m proud of each and every member who contributed to our strong mandate, with over 90% of those who voted supporting industrial action.

This mandate shows the world, and especially the Government, that midwives and MSWs won’t stand idle when our rights, experience at work and the women and families in our care are at risk. Nothing will change until Government sees people standing in solidarity with each other. So that’s exactly what we’ll do.

I’m sure for many the reality of industrial action might be daunting and perhaps it hasn’t quite sunk in. You may have questions on what this will look like, how you will be impacted and what will happen to the women and families in need of our services. I want to reassure you that no action will break the NMC code, that safety is a priority and women’s birth choices must continue to be supported. Our dispute is with employers and the Welsh Government, not maternity service users.

Our action includes both strike and action short of strike. A strike is the complete withdrawal of labour for a period of time, while action short of strike involves working to the terms of the contract of employment or working to rule. This can include taking all contractual breaks, starting and finishing shifts strictly on time and refusing to undertake paid or unpaid overtime. You can find out more on the different types of striking, how to maintain safety and answers to many more questions here.

To RCM activists in Wales, you have been the backbone of the pay campaign, driving engagement locally in your area and doing an excellent job to represent midwives and MSWs. I am grateful to each of you for everything you are doing. Our work doesn’t stop here as we set up the contingency plans during the work stoppage. Please download the campaign pack and time sheets for organising action. We’ll be working closely with you to support members throughout the days of action.

It has been heart-warming to see so much public support for our NHS colleagues on strike and I am certain our experience will be no exception. We are grateful to Duncan Fisher who has set up the Thank the Midwife campaign. Duncan has done incredible work with maternity services over the last 20 years and wants to encourage families to support the maternity services industrial action in Wales. His campaign urges everyone in Wales who was born in the NHS, or who loves anyone who has, to visit a picket line and say thank you to midwives and MSWs. We’ll be encouraging members of the public to show support at picket lines and will share pictures and videos on our social channels to remind you all that you have a huge backing in families across the nation and wider UK.

So, together in solidarity, let’s stand for our services, women and families in Wales, our burnt-out colleagues and ourselves our rights and our NHS. Now is the time for the Welsh Government to act and deliver a decent deal. Gyda'n gilydd mewn undod.