The move by the Royal College of Midwives follows the government’s decision to give a recommended 2.5% pay rise in two stages rather than one. The RCM says this means the rise equates to only 1.9% over the year.
Last week, the Royal College of Nursing sent papers to its members to see if they would be prepared to vote over strike action. Similarly, next week the union which represents health workers, Unison, will make a decision on whether to call an industrial action ballot.
The government offered nurses and midwives in England, Wales and Northern Ireland a 1.5% pay rise in April followed by a further 1% rise in November. But devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland have agreed to pay the rise in full in one go. The decision to ballot its 23,000 midwives for the first time in its 125 year history was taken at an RCM council meeting on Thursday.
The industrial action could include a ban on working overtime and midwives instead working to their contracted hours, taking lunch breaks and finishing on time. Midwives work an average of seven unpaid hours every week, equating to a £2 million saving for the NHS every year. Dame Karlene Davis, general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “It is sad that midwives have been pushed to this point. Midwives’ morale is not at rock bottom, it is subterranean. They are working harder and harder, delivering more and more babies with fewer midwives.”
She called for the government to “sit down with us, listen to our reasonable request and give midwives the pay award they deserve”.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “Discussions continue with the unions about the 2007/08 pay award.