Dear David: pay midwives what your ministry recommends we are worth!

After a momentous campaign and national day of action we midwives eagerly awaited the 2018 budget announcement. We had been promised that the budget would address our long-standing struggle for pay equity that was revived in 2015 with a High Court case, which then moved to mediation. Alas Budget Day came and we were left feeling more than a little deflated. Currently on call 24/7 for barely minimum wage, midwives across the country are over being exploited to meet the ever increasing needs of our birthing population.

The maternity system is in crisis and, despite receiving some increases to the current modular funding system, not much has changed since midwives marched across the nation in May. District Health Board’s struggle to fill vacancies and Wanaka is still down to one full time midwife leaving the women of that area feeling “incredibly anxious” about the future of their maternity service. Student applicant places are no longer being filled and most midwives work part time to cope with the stressful working conditions.

As part of the mediation process the Ministry of Health (MoH) together with the New Zealand College Of Midwives, worked on a new funding model that applied a pay equity lens. The resulting co-design documentation has recently been posted to the MoH website and clearly shows that New Zealand midwives are woefully underfunded and in need of a major pay jolt. We thought we had a legally binding agreement with the MoH to ensure a budget bid that would see the new funding model put in place but it seems legally binding meant something different to the MoH.

At the recent College of Midwives conference a Ministry of Health official “apologised” for not adhering to the legally binding agreement set out in mediation and “promised” to solve the issue and get the co-design happening so midwives in NZ can be better paid. Is this acceptable? Must we wait for more midwives to burn out and leave the profession while the Ministry continues to slide out of its obligations to provide a safe and sustainable maternity system?

Come on David listen to the recommendations clearly documented in the co-design process and pay midwives their due!

(A collective of committed midwives).

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