Most of the 55 midwives employed by the Northland District Health Board are among more than 1100 nationwide who have voted overwhelmingly to reject their pay offer and go on strike.

Eighty per cent of midwives' union Midwifery Employee Representation and Advisory Service (Meras) members employed by all 20 DHBs have cast their votes.

Of these, 90 per cent voted to reject the DHBs' offer and to take strike action.

Midwives have given notice of two-hour work stoppages every day on every shift over a two-week period - effective November 22 to December 5.


Deb Pittam, midwifery director and service manager at NDHB, said her staff were developing contingency plans to manage the significant disruption expected during the two hour-work stoppages.

However, she has assured the public there would be minimal disruption because adequate cover would be put in place during the rolling strikes.

"We will ensure all mothers and babies receive safe care during this time," she said.

Lyndal MacBride works as a rostered core midwife based at Whangārei Hospital and is on call occasionally, which means she can be called up in the middle of the night maybe once a month or once every two months.

Aside from helping deliver babies, she helps women post operatively after caesarean sections and assists with teaching about breastfeeding.

"We'll take women right through their whole labour, making all of the decisions for their labour, and also referring to a consultant obstetrician if it's required or our midwife colleagues, so we have a really specialist role, quite different to a nurse."

Meras industrial co-leader Jill Ovens said the strike came after an year of negotiations.

Members have rejected the pay offer from the DHBs because it was refusing to recognise midwives' skills and responsibilities by offering them the same pay scale as nurses, Ovens said.


"The union wanted a further percentage to recognise the difference and a retention allowance to address the pressing midwifery shortage."

DHBs spokesman Jim Green said Meras has turned down an offer of 9 per cent pay rise over the next 18 months plus two pay step increases and a lump sum payment.

"That's a very good offer and the same as other midwives employed by DHBs," he said.