Midwives Skills Unrecognised in DHBs Offer
More than 1100 midwives directly employed by DHBs will start voting on an offer from the DHBs today (Friday, 19 October). The ballot will close on Monday, 5 November.
MERAS Industrial Co-leader Jill Ovens says the negotiating team is recommending that members reject the offer because the DHBs are refusing to recognise midwives’ skills and responsibilities, a key claim for midwives since negotiations started more than a year ago.
Instead, midwives have been offered the nurses’ pay scales, agreed as a result of a negotiation into which the bulk of midwives employed by DHBs and represented by MERAS, the midwives’ union, had no part.
“Midwives gained recognition as an autonomous profession in 1990, nearly 30 years ago,” says Ms Ovens. “They have a high level of responsibility, study for a four-year direct-entry degree, and their scope of practice includes a high level of clinical decision-making.”
The DHBs rejected the MERAS proposal for a further percentage to recognise the “midwives’ difference”. They also rejected a “retention allowance” to address the pressing midwifery shortage.
The DHBs’ own Midwifery Workforce Information Report 2018 found that:
There are fewer midwives working in DHBs, at the same time as the number of babies being born is increasing. Further, midwives have been faced with increased complexity and acuity.
DHB midwives are largely part-time with midwives paid on average fewer than 30 hours a week.
A sign of workplace stress is that DHB midwives have the highest rate of sick leave and higher turnover rates than most other health professions.
Almost a third of DHB employed midwives are over 55 and will be retiring within the next 10 years.
There is a severe under-representation of Pacific, Maori and Asian midwives.
Midwives have the alternative of working as Lead Maternity Carers (LMCs), which allows more autonomy and flexibility and is often perceived as more favourable to fulfilling the midwifery scope of practice than working in the hospital setting.
MERAS says commitment and investment is required by DHBs and the Ministry of Health to recruit and retain midwives.
“The DHBs and Ministry of Health know urgent action is needed to address the midwifery shortage and midwives’ work-related stress.”
MERAS members are voting on whether to accept or reject the DHBs’ offer, and they are also voting on a range of activities up to and including strike action.