Thursday, June 17, 2021
Times of Georgia
HomePoliticalMidwives’ Union Supports Nurses Strike

Midwives’ Union Supports Nurses Strike

Most DHB-employed midwives are not able to strike
tomorrow because their union is still waiting on a revised
offer from the DHBs.

However, MERAS Co-leader
(Industrial) Jill Ovens, says the union supports the
nurses’ industrial action tomorrow [9 June] as midwives
share their frustrations with the DHBs’

MERAS members are covered by a separate
MECA (Multi-Employer Collective Agreement), which expired in
January, and the union has not met with the DHBs’ full
bargaining team since then. Ms Ovens says this is despite
MERAS suggesting a range of dates when the union negotiating
team would be available.

“Our members are asking
what is happening? They are at their wits end and want to
know how long they have to keep working with chronically
poor staffing conditions. They want to know why nothing
changes for midwives when DHBs and the Ministry of Health
know there is a severe problem.”

MERAS says
maternity services are in crisis with midwives leaving DHBs
in droves. The two Wellington maternity hospitals have about
half the number of midwives needed to deliver safe care for
women and their babies. Other DHBs also have significant

“As every midwife leaves, the stress
levels go up and midwives who are stretched to the limit
feel they cannot do their best. Then they move on, often
leaving the profession completely. It becomes a vicious
circle,” says Ms Ovens. “The DHBs and Ministry of Health
just don’t seem to recognise any urgency to address the
problems of low pay for midwives and a desperate shortage of

MERAS’ workplace representatives have
been working with DHB management at the local level to find
short-term solutions to address the crisis but Ms Ovens says
the reality is there is a national midwifery shortage that
has been known about for years.

In 2019, a Midwifery
Accord was established with the DHBs and Ministry of Health
as an outcome of the MERAS DHBs MECA negotiations. MERAS
says the Accord addressed some issues, such as career
pathways in midwifery, opening up opportunities for senior
midwives, which will go some way to encouraging midwives to
keep working in the DHBs.

But Jill Ovens says the
basic problems remain.

“The Midwifery Pay Equity
process has highlighted the bias and assumptions that
surround midwifery as a profession. And midwives have been
expected to exercise “wage restraint” in their
negotiations with the DHBs. This has to stop. Midwives need
to be valued by being paid a salary that recognises their
high level of skill and knowledge, while keeping pace with
the cost of living,” Ms Ovens

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