“We were shocked when one of the midwives here died recently. She retired about a year ago when she reached 60, but came back on what they call ‘flexi-retirement’.
This is a government-sponsored scheme to get people to go on working after they ‘retire’. It allows them to take part of their pension while doing their job part time.
She didn’t get to enjoy her retirement. And we’ll be expected to work much longer than she did—to 67 or 68.
It suddenly made people think that you might end up with nothing at all.
When you’re young, you think people get a decent pension and think you’ll enjoy a decent retirement. Something like this makes you realise how important pensions are.
There are union posters calling for a yes vote up all over the staff areas of the hospital. Someone has even pinned a photocopied page out of Socialist Worker about building the strikes on the noticeboard.
The maternity unit is hardly radical. Most of the time people are more likely to talk about what came up at church on Sunday than pensions. But now there are constant discussions.
There’s a lot that people don’t know. Some midwives are from overseas and they worry that they might not actually be allowed to strike. Others are scared about threats to their professional registration.
I think the union should explain more that we won’t just walk out and put lives at risk.
A lot of us at my hospital are in Unison, but the vast majority of midwives are in the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), which isn’t joining the strikes on 30 November.
But its members are just as angry with what the government is doing. A few have joined Unison so they can take part.
The RCM is keen to show it supports the action and is telling members to visit picket lines. I think that’s a big step—it makes it more likely they’ll take part in future strikes.
People still have an image of midwives as caring angels. And we do care—but it’s because we care that we have to strike.”