Midwives employed by DHBs have voted overwhelmingly YES to a pay settlement.
The vote which closed on Friday 12th April, will see a majority of members gaining increases of up to 17.5% from where they are now ($66,755 a year) to where they will be in August next year ($78,353 a year).
In addition, from August 2020, midwifery graduates will start on $59,222 a year, an increase of nearly 20% from the current start rate of $49,449 a year.
Midwives who are members of MERAS (Midwifery Representation and Advisory Service), have taken strike action, picketed, marched on Parliament, and became much more visible through a two-year process of renewing their multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) with the 20 DHBs.
MERAS Industrial Co-leader, Jill Ovens, says as a result of the action, midwifery has finally been recognised by the DHBs, as a profession in its own right.
“Midwives have felt the power of standing up for their profession, and they have developed greater strength in their own voice,” she says. “MERAS has also grown in numbers and strength in the hospitals and maternity units where members work.”
MERAS Midwifery Co-leader, Caroline Conroy, said the strikes were challenging for members as most midwives had never taken industrial action before. Managing “life preserving services” (LPS) was also a challenge, especially for workplace representatives who had to ensure there were enough midwives to cover the DHBs’ requirements.
“Our members basically lost their right to strike because most had to stay on site to provide LPS, which often exceeded normal staffing. On the plus side, the LPS requirements highlighted the fact that midwives can’t be replaced.”
A big win for MERAS has been the development of a separate pay equity process for midwives which is already underway, the Terms of Reference having been signed by MERAS, the DHBs and NZNO. The settlement of the pay equity claim will be negotiated into the MECA at the time, and backdated to 31 December 2019 if the process extends into 2020.
A separate Midwifery Accord has also been agreed to address challenges in the midwifery workforce. The Accord, an agreement with Ministry of Health, MERAS, DHBs and NZNO, will focus on safe staffing including retention, the re-employment of those who have left midwifery, recruitment and encouraging new midwifery graduates.
In other news, MERAS midwives at the two Hamilton private birth centres, River Ridge and Waterford, have also voted YES in the ratification ballot for their Collective Agreement that closed on Friday, 12 April.