Midwives strike over pay at Newham University Hospital

Walburgh Manhungria and her fellow midwives joined health care staff across the country striking for

Walburgh Manhungria and her fellow midwives joined health care staff across the country striking for fair pay - Credit: Archant

Midwives went on strike for the first time ever today which saw more than 30 NHS employees protesting outside Newham University Hospital.

The industrial action took place this morning and saw health care professionals, including nurses and paramedics, campaigning for a one per cent pay rise.

Walburgh Manhungira has been working as a midwife at Newham for more than 20 years and said: “What we want is a one per cent pay rise which the government is denying us.

“Many of our colleagues are striking with us today, we are not putting anyone in danger and we just want to make the point that we are not being valued.”

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) asked its members if they wanted to take action for the first time in its 133-year history via a ballot which returned 82 per cent in favour of strike action.

The four-hour-long action over pay is the first to happen in the NHS for more than 30 years after the government said a one per cent pay rise would cost too much and result in a loss of jobs.

Health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said: “We’ve had very clear analysis that if we did that, hospital chief executives would lay off around 4,000 nurses this year and around 10,000 nurses next year.

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“It would be irresponsible for a health secretary to accept a pay recommendation that would mean NHS hospitals laid off nurses.”

A one per cent pay rise has already been given to some staff but not those who get automatic progression-in-the-job rises.

Chief executive of the RCM, Cathy Warwick, said: “At a time when MPs are set for a 10 per cent pay hike, we’re told that midwives don’t deserve even a below-inflation one percent rise.

“I ask them to think of the pressure midwives have every single day, caring for both mother and baby, and I ask them to think how it feels to those same midwives when they are told they aren’t worth a one per cent pay rise.”

Walburgh said: “We have had a lot of support from the public. Cars passing by are tooting their horns and people passing by are saying congratulations and good luck.

“We have waited a long time for a pay rise and all we are asking for is one per cent.”

Strikers were joined at the picket line by the Newham Save Our NHS Campaign led by retired GP Dr Ron Singer.

He said: “The atmosphere was quite exciting this morning as we had a nurse there who had been in the last NHS strike 30 years ago.

“It was quite historic and people were recognising that. There was a lot of good will from passersby who were taking leaflets.”

Care was taken to ensure emergency services were not affected though an NHS England spokesperson said: “The most urgent cases have to be put first and we would ask the public to help by only calling an ambulance if it is a life threatening situation. We don’t want anyone to take risks, if there’s any doubt call 999.

“But we would ask the public to think carefully before doing so as non-life threatening cases may take longer to respond to than normal”