Midwives' response to 2018 budget - from www.medium.com
With a woman as Prime Minister, a Minister of Health who has experienced the maternity system three times and an Associate Health Minister/Minister for Women also expecting a child we thought this government would be the one to address the pay/gender equity issue. But no. Wednesday’s budget showed that this government is not willing to address the issue and has failed to deliver on its promises.
Midwives have spent the last two months campaigning hard and on Thursday 3rd May held successful nationwide rallies. A petition with over 13000 signatures was presented on the steps of parliament to Health Minister David Clark who assured the crowd that our impassioned pleas had been heard.
In 2015 the NZ College of Midwives lodged a pay equity claim with the high court and in the spirit of good faith moved to a mediation process with the Ministry of Health (MoH). A new funding model was designed with independent input that applied a pay equity lens to the project. Currently Lead Maternity Carers’ (LMC’s) are funded through a modular payment system that sees rural midwives earning take home pay of $7.23/hr and $12.40 for a midwife practising in larger towns or cities.
As self-employed contractors midwives cannot access sick pay, annual leave or bill for travel and are on-call 24/7. We were told (by the previous government) that the new co-design model was ready to go but it all hinged on a successful budget bid. The Dear David Facebook campaign, the rallies and the petition were grassroots midwife- led campaign strategies to raise public awareness so that our ‘budget bid’ was enough to get the co-design model funded.
Alas Wednesday’s budget failed to deliver. Yes the government have agreed to an 8.9% increase but this is over four years and will only lift the hourly rates to $7.87 for rural and $13.50 for urban midwives. And the 8.9% was to recognise that LMC rates had not kept pace with their DHB employed colleagues. Correcting pay inequity does not mean matching one underfunded female profession with another! It means meeting a comparator in another male dominated profession like electrical engineers. Yes there has been an extra $100 million earmarked for maternity services but on closer inspection this is over four years, is needed to just keep pace with extra demand and will also be distributed to other services such as ultrasound scanning. Even the College of Midwives have called the budget announcement disappointing.
The maternity system is haemorrhaging midwives as they realise they cannot go on pouring themselves into an incredibly demanding profession with barely enough remuneration to pay their petrol. Wanaka has one LMC left for a population of 200 birthing women. Over 30 midwives have left the Waikato region this year alone and after the budget announcement social media has seen a flurry of cries warning of a mass exodus.
This government said gender equity was a priority. Gender inequity starts at birth.
The health professional entrusted with the care and safety of mothers and babies is earning less than minimum wage. As a society how much do we value that woman, her whānau and her baby? Were we naive to think that in a country that prides itself on being the first to give women the vote that pay equity for midwives was achievable? Come on Jacinda and co be the change we wanted to see and “lets do this”!
A collective of Wellington Midwives