‘Wake up government!’ South West London midwives join NHS four-hour strike in pay dispute

Thousands of NHS staff in England are staging a four-hour walkout today in a pay dispute.

This action, which will affect South West London hospitals between 7am and 11am, is in response to the government refusing to give nurses and midwives a 1% pay increase.

As the strikes take place across the country hospitals have reassured patients and mothers that the standard of care they will receive will not suffer.

A Kingston Hospital spokesman said: “Please be assured that patients and service users are our first priority and plans have been put in place to ensure the levels of staffing will be maintained to ensure patient safety.

“Staff will be demonstrating at hospital entrances.  However, these will be peaceful and access to the hospital will in no way be disrupted.”

Today’s strikes will continue throughout the week with four days of action short of strike action between tomorrow and October 17 where members will actually take their breaks.

UNISON, the UK’s largest health union with 300,000 NHS members in England, publicised its discontent over the treatment of NHS staff by the government.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “NHS members don’t take action often or lightly.

“NHS members don’t take action often or lightly.”

“For many of our members this will be the first time they walk out as the last action over pay was 32 years ago.

“The NHS runs on the goodwill of its workers but this government has shown utter contempt for them.”

The Royal College of Midwives’ (RCM) is also joining the industrial action for the first time in their 133-year history.

Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the RCM, has continually publicised her dissatisfaction with the situation through her blog.

She said: “This is a resounding yes from our members.

“It could not send a clearer signal about the level of discontent on this issue to those denying them a very modest 1% pay increase.”

The RCM voted emphatically in support of going ahead with industrial action as 82.2% voted in favour of taking part in a strike and 94.6% in favour of taking part in action short of a strike.

According to Francine Allen, Regional Officer for the RMC in London, the national birth rate is at an all-time high since 2004 which means there is a huge need for more midwives.

She said: “The government has acknowledged that there is a complete lack of midwives but not a lot of action has been done about it.

“Wake up government! You need to recognise the feeling of the public as you have skilled midwives and you are not treating them properly.”

Midwives are particularly unhappy about the overtime hours which they rarely see any pay for, in addition to the standard 12-hour shifts they already work.

Colin Beesley, a communications advisor for the RCM, explained that their research shows most midwives work a minimum of two hours a week but often more and unpaid.

He said: “We estimate that if the average midwife works just 13 hours overtime, and many could rack that up in the space of a few weeks, then it will be equivalent to the 1% pay award that the government is denying midwives and other NHS staff.”

NHS pay was frozen in 2011 and 2012 and increased by 1% in 2013 which has not matched the rise of living costs, resulting in greater outgoings while pay remained the largely the same.

Figures reveal that a nurse at the top of pay band 5 will have seven years’ experience in clinical practise but will earn just £28,180.00 PA or £14.41 per hour (before tax).

Picture courtesy of UNISON, with thanks

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