Midwives braved the cold and rain to strike outside Horsham Hospital on Monday (October 13), one of several public sector strikes to take place this week.
Horsham Community Midwives, who are based at the Hurst Road minor injuries unit as well as at East Surrey Hospital, took to the street as part of a national demonstration following a row over pay.
It is the first time in the Royal College of Midwives’ (RCM) 130-year history that the union has voted to strike.
Leigh Robins, the local group’s RCM representative, said: “We are here because the pay review body has suggested a temporary one per cent pay rise.
“For three years in a row our pay has remained static. Enough is enough. It is the first time in 130 years of the Royal College of Midwives has voted overwhelmingly to strike.”
Nearly all of the midwives based in Horsham opted to protest. The group said they would like a one per cent pay increase, recommended by an independent review, to be implemented.
The group paid tribute to the ‘huge public support’ they received.
Leigh said: “Everyone who passes us wants to wear a badge or a sticker. We hope that the 13 hour shifts we work consistently and the long days we work without breaks will be recognised.”
The group added that cars regularly sounded their horns in support, while they handed out cupcakes to passing members of the public.
Emergency care was not withdrawn as the midwives took part in the nationwide protest.
On Monday, some members of South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) also opted to strike over a four-hour period.
‘Action short of a strike’ is set to continue this week, until Sunday (October 19).
Emergency response was not affected, as all members on picket lines returned to full duties following an urgent call.
A spokesperson for SECAmb said: “South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust would like to thank the public and staff for their support during this morning’s national industrial action.
“Prior to today’s action we had worked closely with union representatives to ensure the impact on patients was kept to a minimum.
“We had robust contingency plans in place to ensure we could provide a safe and responsive service to those people who needed us.
“We would like to take this opportunity to remind the public that calling 999 should be reserved for serious emergencies and thank them for their ongoing support.”
Trade union GMB said the protest was ‘rock solid’, and criticised Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, over the NHS dispute.
Rehana Azam, GMB national officer for the NHS, said: “Reports from across the country are that the strike action has been rock solid. Members are determined to get government to listen to them.
“It is disingenuous of the Secretary of State to state that a one per cent rise in pay will give rise to job losses.”
A picket line was set to take place outside County Hall North on Tuesday (October 14) with teachers joining the protest.
However, teachers’ union UNISON announced on Friday (October 10) that the strike had been suspended and urged members not to take industrial action on Tuesday.