Midwives reject DHBs' pay offer and vote to strike

Midwives reject DHBs' pay offer and vote to strike
Photo credit: Getty

More than 1100 midwives across the country have voted overwhelmingly to reject the district health boards' (DHBs') pay offer and go on strike.

Eight out of every 10 members of midwives' union MERAS who are employed by DHBs voted in the ballot. Of those, 90 percent opted to reject the DHBs' offer.

From Wednesday, midwives across New Zealand will hand in their notice informing employees of planned two-hour work stoppages every day on every shift over a two-week period from November 22 to December 5.

Industrial co-leader Jill Ovens says the idea is to maximise disruption for the DHBs while minimising the effect on women and their babies. 

Midwives were offered the same pay offer as the New Zealand Nurses Organisation. 

Around 30,000 nurses across the country walked off the job striking for better pay and fairer working conditions earlier this year.  

In August, they accepted the fifth pay offer from DHBs. That offer was agreed on as a result of a negotiation which the bulk of midwives employed by DHBs and represented by MERAS had no part off. 

Members put their rejected pay offer down to DHBs' refusal to recognise midwives' skills and responsibilities, a key claim for midwives since pay negotiations started more than a year ago, Ms Owen says. 

"They have a high level of responsibility, study for a four-year direct-entry degree, and their scope of practice includes a high level of clinical decision-making."

DHBs rejected the union's proposal for a further pay percentage. They also rejected a retention allowance to address the pressing midwifery shortage.

Ms Owen says commitment and investment is required by DHBs and the Ministry of Health to recruit and retain midwives. 

"The DHBs and Ministry of Health know urgent action is needed to address the midwifery shortage and midwives' work-related stress." 

Ballot co-ordinators in every DHB reported that members were keen to vote. 

"This is a pivotal time for midwifery. Members see it as 'our time' to be recognised," MERAS MECA team representative Michelle Archer says.