Midwives and maternity support workers in the NHS in England and Wales are to be balloted on industrial action over pay.
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) made the announcement after a month-long consultation saw its members overwhelmingly reject the Government’s below-inflation pay award.
Two-thirds of eligible members in England and more than eight out of 10 in Wales took part in the consultation, with three-quarters saying they want to be balloted on industrial action.
The RCM will announce the dates of the ballots in each country in the coming weeks.
It said it wants to reassure maternity staff and women and families using services that midwives and maternity support workers will not take any action that would put women or babies at risk.
The RCM said that should its members vote for industrial action, it will not ask them to break their code of conduct, and safe services will be maintained.
Ensuring the delivery of safe services remained paramount during previous strike action in 2014, the RCM added.
Dr Suzanne Tyler of the RCM said: “Our members have spoken and just like us they believe a below-inflation pay award is not good enough, they deserve more.
“The results and turnout speaks volumes about the feelings of a fragile, exhausted and undervalued workforce, because taking industrial action is always the very last resort for midwives and maternity staff.
“They obviously now see no other alternative to getting a fair and just pay award from their governments.
“Our members – along with many other workers across the UK – are sending a very, very clear message to the Government, and one that must not be ignored any longer.
“Governments must step in to stop midwives and other staff from leaving the NHS, particularly at time of staffing crisis when maternity services in England alone are short of over 2,000 midwives.
“One of the ways to do that is by offering these dedicated and committed professionals the inflation-busting pay rise they and their colleagues deserve. Not just for their incredible efforts but also because it is the right thing to do to protect them from the ravages of rapidly rising prices and inflation.
“This is a sign of just how battered and bruised the maternity workforce is, facing unprecedented demands with too few staff and pay falling way behind the soaring cost of living.
“We have a new political leadership for the UK and a Prime Minister who said that she will ‘deliver on the National Health Service’.
“This is her chance to start delivering, because the NHS is nothing without its staff and they are leaving in droves.”