The Independent London Newspaper

 

On strike to protest against low pay, Whittington Hospital workers are joined on picket line by Green councillor

Cllr Caroline Russell and Islington midwife Terri Wogan-Webb on picket line on Monday

Published: 17 October, 2014
by PETER GRUNER

GREEN councillor Caroline Russell spoke about the wonderful care she received from midwives when she joined them for a national day of protest about low pay outside the Whittington Hospital on Monday.

Cllr Russell said midwives attended her three children’s births, which were all at home in Highbury.

“I decided to have home births because I felt a little nervous about going into hospital,” she said. “Also, I really wanted to have a simple midwife-led birth. As we know, midwives have delivered babies through the centuries and for many mothers it is a perfect system.”

Her children are now aged 21, 18 and 14.

Monday’s four-hour strike action – the largest for more than 30 years – was followed by an “overtime ban” in the ambulance service until today (Friday), with other NHS employees only working to their contracted hours during the same period. 

Urgent and emergency care were unaffected.

It is the first time in the Royal College of Midwives’ 133-year history that they voted for strike action. They say their pay has fallen behind inflation but the amount of work they are expected to do keeps rising.

Representing Highbury East, Cllr Russell, who is standing as a Parliamentary candidate for Islington North next May, added that in two of her births she knew the midwives before going into labour, which made her feel reassured. “Midwives can save the NHS considerable money because you don’t always need lots of equipment or extra staff. 

“Giving birth at home can be a very empowering process for some mums and I’m forever grateful to the Whittington midwives for their astonishing care and attention.

“The Government is very quick to act on their own pay increases but very slow when it comes to these incredibly important workers. Midwives are overwhelmingly women and are supporting women. The fact that they are not better paid and valued suggests an element of sexism here.”

Midwife Terri Wogan-Webb, a Royal College of Nursing shop steward, said this was the first time the RCN had supported strike action. 

She said: “The majority of midwives overwhelmingly support this action. The Government has failed to implement the pay review body’s recommendations, even though it was deemed affordable.

“Qualified healthcare professionals are a valuable resource and unfortunately money is a measure of how that value is perceived. We feel we’re worth it, so we are enabled to continue to provide excellent care to women and babies.”

‘Morale is rock bottom’

by TOM FOOT

NURSES, ambulance paramedics, therapists, cooks, cleaners, and midwives were called out on strike on Monday, writes Tom Foot.

The four-hour industrial action, from 7am to 11am, was called after the Government refused to increase NHS workers’ pay by more than 1 per cent.

For many NHS workers, the strike was the first pay dispute of its kind since the 1980s but the row has been inflamed after a recommendation from the NHS Pay Review Body to increase pay was rejected by the Government.

At the Whittington, CND unfurled a banner saying “NHS Not Trident” in a nod to a popular argument that people believe the gap in NHS funding, around £20billion for the next five years, could be filled if the UK’s nuclear deterrent was axed.

Unison’s regional secretary Linda Perks said: “NHS members don’t take action often or lightly. Staff are, on average, 10 per cent worse off than when the Coalition came to power. Their families are suffering and morale is hitting rock bottom. A well-motivated workforce saves lives so we need to cherish and support our NHS staff who work day in, day out caring for others.”

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