Despite the decision yesterday by about 1100 midwives to engage in a two-week strike starting later this month, mums should rest assured that a system will be in place to keep them and their babies safe, a union leader said today.
"We're already in discussions with the DHBs about life preserving services," union co-leader Jill Ovens told TVNZ 1's Breakfast today, explaining that the strikes are scheduled to last in two-hour shifts while making sure there will some midwives on the hospital wards.
"We're maximizing the disruption for the DHBs and minimising the effect for the women and their babies, because for midwives women and babies is the main thing," she added. "They wouldn't exist if it wasn't for that.
"It may mean that there's no clinical appointments made during that two-hour period for the ante-natal, that sort of thing. Maybe elective caesareans will be put off."
About 90 per cent of the union members agreed yesterday to strike between 22 November and 5 December.
"Midwives are just fed up with it. They want recognition of their skills and training," Ms Ovens said today, explaining that for years they have been on the same pay scale as nurses - starting around $49,000 per year and topping out around $66,0000 - despite having more responsibilities.
As "autonomous practitioners", midwives don't rely on direct supervision from doctors, she explained.
"They make their own clinical decision. They prescribe drugs, and they have huge responsibility in delivering our babies," Ms Ovens said. "It's a completely different model to the medical model, and it's just not recognised."
The union would like to see graduates start a step higher on the pay scale and the top pay raised to $75,000.
"I think it was a bit of a surprise. Midwives don't usually do this," Ms Ovens said of the District Health Boards' reaction to the strikes.
But it shouldn't be a shock given the crisis in midwifery, she said.
"There are fewer midwives working in DHBs, and yet the population's increasing," she said. "And the acuity and complexity of birthing - the ones that end up in the hospital, particularly the tertiary units like Middlemore -- it's more difficult. So there's a lot of stress in the workplace."