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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 May 2007, 12:08 GMT 13:08 UK
Midwives ponder industrial action
Midwives have never taken industrial action
Midwives are to consider industrial action for the first time in their history over a pay offer in the latest sign of unrest among NHS staff.

Midwives in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have been offered a 1.5% pay rise followed by an extra 1% later.

The government says this is affordable but midwives want 2.5% immediately - as is happening in Scotland.

Union leaders have been asked by midwives to consider industrial action as nurses ponder a similar move.

Last week, the Royal College of Nursing announced it would be balloting members to see if they wanted to be balloted on industrial action.

Nurses are also angry about the pay offer and if they did decide to take action it would also be a first for them.

This overwhelming vote shows the strength of feeling about this issue
Dame Karlene Davis, RCM general secretary

Delegates at the Royal College of Midwives conference asked the union's governing council to consider balloting the 37,000 members over industrial action.

The RCM said if action was taken it would fall short of an all-out strike as they did not want to harm patient care, but it could include working to rule.

The college said the average midwife on 26,700 a year was facing a cut of nearly 700 in real terms as the retail price index shows inflation is running at 4.5%.

RCM general secretary Dame Karlene Davis said: "This overwhelming vote shows the strength of feeling about this issue.

"There is a groundswell of discontent among midwives on this issue and it is one that the government ignores at its peril."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "Clearly, any ballot for industrial action is a matter for the RCM.

"The government has been committed to ensuring NHS staff are better paid.

"Maximum basic pay for frontline midwives has increased by 65% since 1997.

"Staging was essential to align with the Government's inflation target. Prudent management of the economy resulting in steady growth and low inflation has enabled the Government to make unprecedented investment in the NHS."

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