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Midwives will not strike, after ballot falls short

Published on: 13 Dec 2022

The Royal College of Midwives has not met thresholds required to strike in its vote in England, it announced today, but physiotherapy staff are set to strike at more than 100 trusts in their first ever action ballot over pay.

The trade union announced this afternoon that its ballot had not reached the turnout required to take strike action in England. Eighty-eight per cent of those who voted said they supported strike action, but only about 47 per cent of eligible members voted. 

Law requires a turnout of at least 50 per cent, the RCM said.

Its message to members said: “These rules are deliberately designed to make it difficult for union members to take action… This result shows how angry midwives and [maternity support workers] are.”

A midwives strike is planned in Wales, however, where the RCM hit a 55 per cent turnout, with 95 per cent voting yes.

However, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy announced that, on a 54 per cent turnout, 84 per cent of eligible members in England who voted said yes to strike action, with a further 92 per cent saying yes to action short of a strike. The CSP has not yet said what action is planned or when.

The trade union, which has more than 60,000 members, confirmed physiotherapy staff had a mandate for strike action in 112 organisations in England, 107 of which were provider trusts (see list below). Physios also voted to strike at every health board in Wales. 

Claire Sullivan, the CSP’s director of employer relations and union services, said: “Our members have now delivered compelling support for industrial action in support of fairer pay.

“In any industrial action we will always ensure the safety of patients is safeguarded – but NHS strikes remain entirely avoidable. Once again, I urge the government to respond to our repeated health union calls for immediate pay talks for the NHS.”

It comes as nurses prepare to take industrial action on 15 and 20 December, over pay and safety concerns, with ambulance staff across the GMB Union, Unison and Unite set to walk out on 21 December (and GMB also on 28 December).

Along with physios, all are covered by the Agenda for Change pay framework. The government announced an AfC pay settlement in July worth about 4.8 per cent in cash terms on average (well below inflation), and worth less to more senior staff on higher bands.

The Royal College of Nursing hit the threshold for strikes at 104 provider trusts and is planning action at 44 of them this week. More are expected at another date.

The Department of Health and Social Care has said further Agenda for Change pay increases would “mean taking money away from frontline services and reducing the 7.2 million elective backlog”.