A “symbolic hikoi” is under way across the country as midwives begin rolling strikes in support of contract negotiations.
Their union is ”cautiously optimistic” about a new deal that addresses key issues in the dispute. It was put to negotiators last week, but no formal offer has yet been made.
Northland District Health Board midwives yesterday set up a picket line at Mander Park in Whangārei as Midwifery Employee Representation and Advisory Service (Meras) members begin week-long rolling action, starting at the country’s north and south ends and each day moving closer to Parliament.
Co-leader Jill Ovens said the Meras union will recommend members ratify the latest proposal if it does become a formal offer.
Northland DHB employs 60 midwives, 90 per cent of whom are Meras members.
Staffing contingency plans were in place to manage any disruption caused by yesterday’s strike, which lasted from 9am to 9pm.
”To date patients have been very supportive of staff,” said Deb Pittam, NDHB midwifery and maternity services manager. “We have been very careful to explain what is happening and clear that they will receive great midwifery care if needed, despite the strike.”
In December, health boards criticised Meras for turning down a 9 per cent pay rise over the next 18 months, plus two pay-step increases and a lump-sum payment.
Midwives had been offered the same pay deal negotiated by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) for nurses.
Meras proposed lifting the starting salary for midwives from $49,450 to $56,788, equivalent to the second step of the nurses’ pay scale.
Midwives have different skills and qualifications from most nurses, Meras said. They have a high level of responsibility, study for a four-year equivalent direct-entry degree, and their practice includes high-level, clinical decision-making.