Industrial action taken by midwives around the country may have come to an end, but their demands still have not been met.

For the past two weeks, 37 midwives employed by the Hawke's Bay District Health Board, who are members of the Midwifery Employee Representation and Advisory Service (MERAS) have taken rolling strike action for up to two hours, twice a day.

Signs on display were poignant: "Midwives matter," "support midwives to support woman" and "here because we care".

MERAS representative and registered midwife Sharnalee Withey believes the strikes, which ended on Wednesday, have "achieved what we wanted".


"Our aim in doing them the way we did, was about creating disruption for the upper tiers of management, but having very little impact on the woman and babies that we give care to. That was very important to us."

A HBDHB spokeswoman said a life preserving service agreement had been agreed with the union, and they were "confident mothers and babies have been well cared for during the strike action period".

Fifty per cent of midwives employed by the HBDHB are union members.

Midwives were offered the same pay deal negotiated by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) for nurses, but rejected it.

MERAS proposed lifting the starting salary for midwives from $49,450 to $56,788, which was equivalent to the second step of the nurses' pay scale.

Fellow Hawke's Bay MERAS representative and staff midwife, Sarah Joyce said they wanted to be recognised as a different workforce, particularly to nurses, with different skills and qualifications.

Midwives gained recognition as autonomous professionals in 1990. Joyce said they have a high level of responsibility, study for a four year equivalent direct-entry degree, and their scope of practice includes a high level of clinical decision-making.

"Unfortunately, our profession is at a crisis point. Midwives are leaving in their droves."


Joyce has been a midwife for the past 10 years and says she plans to become a self-employed Lead Maternity Carer.

"It's not just financial reasons, but it is the lack of respect for our profession and what we want."

Negotiations are set to begin today.