|Sign up now!|
More than 1150 DHB-employed midwives will begin strike action tomorrow (Thursday, 22 November).
Employed midwives are striking for two hours, twice a day, over a two-week period through to 5 December. In all, 540 strike notices have been issued by MERAS, the midwives’ union, to the 20 DHBs.
The strike follows the DHBs’ rejection yesterday of a proposal that had been put forward by MERAS, in urgent mediation last Wednesday, in an attempt resolve the long-running pay dispute.
However, most MERAS (Midwifery Employee Representation and Advisory Service) members who are rostered on duty will be at work during the strikes, providing “life preserving services” (LPS) – see explanation of LPS on page two.
Midwifery Co-leader, Caroline Conroy, says strikes cannot go ahead if the safety of women and their babies is compromised as a result. But the fact that some DHBs have requested more midwives than would normally be rostered on duty, highlights the severe under-staffing in maternity units around the country.
“The union is being asked to find members willing to fill gaps in rosters. It is not the purpose of LPS to fix staffing shortages,” Caroline Conroy says.
Caroline Conroy says the extent of life preserving services having to be provided by MERAS members, reinforces the union’s position that as health professionals, midwives’ work is highly skilled, with a significant level of responsibility, and therefore midwives should be paid accordingly.
MERAS Industrial Co-leader, Jill Ovens, says the DHBs and the Ministry of Health are holding their position that MERAS members should accept the nurses’ pay scales, agreed as a result of a negotiation into which the bulk of midwives employed by DHBs and represented by MERAS had no part.
“Midwives and Nurses are health professionals and key members of a team that works hard to deliver the best outcomes for women and their babies. A decision by members of MERAS not to accept a DHB pay offer has nothing to do with being worth more, less or the same as nurses. We have a different code of practice, different expertise and have a different history to nurses. Other health professionals like physiotherapists and occupational therapists have pay differentials that reflect their qualifications, level of responsibility and scope of practice. Why shouldn't midwives have their pay rates set in the same way?”
Jill Ovens says MERAS has been told that the same workforce must have exactly the same pay and conditions, regardless of union coverage. Yet just last week, she says, “the DHBs concluded a settlement with one group of resident doctors that is not the same as that of the majority of resident doctors covered by a different union. That makes a mockery of their argument.”
Ms Ovens adds that everyone who is a health professional in this country deserves to be paid fairly for the work, qualifications and experience they have; and employed midwives (DHB midwives) - the majority of whom MERAS represents - are no different.
Additional information regarding MERAS’ pay offer and negotiation:
The MERAS proposal to the DHBs included starting new midwifery graduates on $56,788, equivalent to the second step of the nurses’ pay scale. DHBs currently pay new graduate nurses in their first year to consolidate their clinical experience, whilst midwives self-fund the additional clinical experience during their undergraduate degree at an additional cost of up to $20,000.
MERAS says new graduate midwives then effectively start a step behind nurses on the pay scale for the same level of experience. This is patently unfair.
The MERAS proposal also included a top step for most midwives of $72,945, the same rate as the new step in the NZNO (NZ Nurses Organisation) MECA (Multi-Employer Collective Agreement), but it would have been effective at an earlier date in exchange for different backdating arrangements. There were also adjustments at other steps in the pay scales to address anomalies.
Life Preserving Services in a maternity context:
Care for all women:
Care for all post birth women as clinically indicated, including observations, lochia, fundal assessment, perineum assessment.
Care for all babies needing time dependant observations, medications, examinations, treatment, or feeds.
Breastfeeding care for all women needing one-to-one support.
Response to any obstetric or neonatal emergency call made in the maternity setting.
Care for any woman or baby requiring transfer to a higher level of care or return to DHB of domicile for clinical reasons.
On-call flight or road retrieval by appropriately trained midwives.
Provision of a midwife to clinically co-ordinate (clinical charge midwife, ACMM and/or clinical midwife co-ordinator, shift co-ordinator) for the inpatient maternity services in order to provide clinical triage and emergency response (this role must be filled by a midwife who has experience in this role).
sessments or outpatients in services where the DHB community midwifery service is over-committed and cumulative delays related to industrial action may prejudice the health of women and babies.