Midwives will be happy for a phased approach to achieving pay equity, the New Zealand College of Midwives says.
College chief executive Karen Guilliland marched with close to 1000 midwives and supporters to Parliament today.
They were met by Health Minister David Clark, Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter and a host of other MPs.
Midwives are demanding pay equity, and say they have waited too long for it to be resolved after lodging their claim in the High Court three years ago.
Guilliland told the Herald after the rally that the new Government understood the issues facing midwives better than anyone had before.
"But what we want is a commitment that we will end up with pay equity. I'm not sure whether we've got that, but I am reasonably sure that we will get enough for midwives to feel like they can carry on," she said.
"As long as there is a reasonably close plan that fixes all the issues, I think the midwives will feel able to stay hanging in there."
But she had a warning for the Government if it failed to deliver in the Budget.
"I think that is a really serious place to be in. I've been in midwifery for 40 years. I've never seen such levels of despair and outrage. The outrage is one thing but the despair is quite another thing all together."
Clark told the crowd the Government was listening.
"The stories that are not told often enough are the stories about the conditions in which staff are working in our healthcare system. There are people – allied health workers, nurses, doctors, midwives – who expect us to have a plan, to own the problem and to take action. And that is precisely what we intend to do."
Wellington region chairwoman of the College of Midwives, Siobhan Connor, said in a statement earlier that the Ministry of Health and the college had co-designed a funding model that solved the issues of pay equity and shortages of community midwives.
"The Government just needs to fund it in the Budget," she said.
Guilliland said they would be happy with a phased approach.
"Our co-design process was a stepped process anyway. We understood that we wouldn't be able to do it overnight because the pay gap is huge. It was never going to magically appear."
Clark said earlier that the Budget would include a package to start addressing the issues facing midwives but the Government could not solve everything in one Budget.
The co-design model, which has been with Clark since the end of 2017, sets out a payment system that enables midwives to be paid in a way that reflects their actual hours of work and conditions.
Midwives say they are on-call 24/7, have an unpredictable workload, are managing more complex issues with pregnant women, and cost of living increases have not been addressed since 2007.
Lead maternity carer Charlie Ferris, from Dunedin, co-founded the Dear David campaign in which nearly 1000 midwives wrote to the minister to tell their stories.
She told the rally she was motivated to take action after working out that she earned an hourly rate of $7.40 after tax for her work as a midwife.
"I was completely heartbroken and wrote to dear David, who was my electorate MP when I was a student back in Dunedin."
She presented Clark with a bound book of stories from midwives about their own circumstances.
Clark was also presented with a petition signed by 13,000 people calling for pay equity for midwives.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters later that some of the midwives' issues had been worked on as part of the Budget process.
"We absolutely know and hear their concerns. We're know the concerns of the health workforce generally and we're doing our best to address them as much as we can in one of three Budgets where we'll be looking to rebuild health services."