. Royal College of Midwives said midwives in England are 'over-stretched'
. It is the first time that the RCM has ever asked its members about striking
. The threat of a potential strike will fuel fears among pregnant women
Midwives are threatening to go on strike for the first time in the history of the profession in a move which poses a real worry for pregnant women. The Royal College of Midwives said midwives in England are 'over-stretched, under-resourced and under-valued'.
Founded in 1881, it is the first time in his 133-year history that the RCM has ever asked its members whether or not they are prepared to go on strike.
Cathy Warwick, the chief executive, warned: 'The sense of anger and frustration among midwives is palpable. 'We knew midwives were angry about the derisory offer from the Government but this response from our members highlights just how unfairly they have been treated. 'Such an unprecedented response with such a large number willing to consider action should ring alarm bells with the Government.'
Each year, nearly 700,000 babies are born in England, according to the latest official figures from the Office for National Statistics. The threat of a potential strike will fuel fears among pregnant women, who will worry about the impact of a strike on their chance of a safe delivery.
The dispute was sparked by an annual pay offer of up to one per cent made to midwives in April this year, which they dismissed as 'derisory.'
A typical midwife, who works full-time and has five years' experience, is paid £29,759, but many work part-time and earn a lower salary. For a new midwife who works outside London, the starting salary is around £21,500, according to the RCM.
Around 20,000 midwives were asked if they were prepared to go on strike, with nearly half responding to the unprecedented ballot. Of those who did respond, two-thirds said they were prepared to take strike action if the bitter dispute continues.
Ms Warwick insisted midwives in England 'will always think of the woman and her baby first.'
An emergency meeting will take place in the next few weeks to decide whether or not to formally ballot midwives about staging a strike, which could take place within months.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: 'We are disappointed that unions are considering industrial action. 'There is still time for the unions to put patients first and accept our offer to come back to the negotiating table.'
By BECKY BARROW
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