As local midwives took the unprecedented step of holding a four hour stoppage on Wednesday, politicians have spoken out in support of local health workers.
Independent MLA Claire Sugden met with midwives on the picket line at the Causeway Hospital.
She said: “I was pleased to join local Midwives in support of their protest regarding the 1 percent pay increase which they have not received.
“The Northern Ireland Executive rejected the recommendation made by the NHS Pay Review Body that a 1 percent pay uplift should be allocated for 2014/2015.
“Vital service providers in our public sector have not seen their pay rise with inflation, adding strain to the cost of living for many employees.
“The strike demonstrates the wider issue here, which is public and community/voluntary sector cuts. They have been the result of a budget which I voted against and have heavily criticised all along.
“It is wrong to penalise the people on the ground who are providing services within our communities. Those being penalised should be the people who made the decisions which got us into this mess in the first place.”
Causeway Coast and Glens SDLP councillor, Gerry Mullan added: “The public need to know that the nursing profession has been pushed to their limit, taken for granted and walked over by a management regime that doesn’t even pay them the salaries they are entitled to.
“The Royal College of Midwives deserves the full support of all political parties and public representatives. As a candidate in the forthcoming Westminster election, I was delighted to join my SDLP colleagues to express solidarity with the midwives and to reassure them that they are appreciated for constantly going well beyond the call of duty to ensure that their patients receive the best of care.
“I was disgusted to learn that management told the picketers that they couldn’t wear uniform whilst protesting, and I just wonder if the people laying down this dictate begin to understand the gem they have in the medical profession.
“Regardless of whoever heads up a new government at Westminster it must move immediately to ensure that the demoralisation that has taken place among all health care workers is addressed, their incomes are restored and recognition is given to the vocation they represent.”
Ulster Unionist councillor William McCandless has said that the new Health Minister will have to address the growing discontent amongst staff right throughout the health service.
He said: “There is something seriously wrong when a body as eminent as the Royal College of Midwives votes 9-1 in favour of holding strike action for the first time in its 134 year history.
“The unconditional position of the Ulster Unionist Party is, given that NHS staff in Northern Ireland are part of UK wide terms and conditions, when the Independent Pay Review Body recommended the 1 percent increase, it should have been implemented.
“Unfortunately by refusing to award it this has now put staff right throughout the Health Service in Northern Ireland on an unequal footing with their counterparts in other regions of the United Kingdom. That is wrong because I have no doubt at all that midwives in Northern Ireland are just as dedicated and passionate about the provision of high quality and safe maternity services to the women and families here as their colleagues in the rest of the UK.
“The decision to proceed with a four hour stoppage will not have been easy for the midwives and maternity staff. I fully understand however that it was the outcome of many months and years of sheer frustration. This whole episode could have been avoided had they been treated fairly.”