Midwives in Northern Ireland have voted to take industrial action short of a strike.
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said in a formal ballot almost 94% of workers voted, in frustration over pay.
Midwives were given a 4% pay increase in December, which the union has criticised as being well below the rate of inflation, then at 10%.
Some 93.9% voted for industrial action short of a strike, based on a turnout of 55% of eligible RCM members working in the health service in the region.
Almost 90% also voted to take industrial action consisting of a strike.
Karen Murray, director for Northern Ireland at the RCM, said the vote is a reflection of “growing anger and frustration at a pay award that goes nowhere near to making up for a decade and more of pay freezes and pay stagnation”.
“The current political situation has left services rudderless for far too long, with no maternity strategy and no plan to drive improvements in maternity care for women and working conditions for midwives, maternity support workers and their colleagues,” she said.
“Not only is this taking a heavy toll on our members, it’s ultimately impacting care for women.
“This pay award and the growing crisis in our maternity services will do nothing to keep midwives in our maternity service, as many say they have had enough and will simply head for the door.
“We must see an improvement in pay for our members and we must see political action here in Northern Ireland and in Westminster to resolve the political crisis so that we can then turn to solving the maternity crisis.
“Our members are exhausted, fragile and burnt out.
“This is terrible for them and is having an impact on the care they can deliver for women, babies, and families. A solution to these issues must be found, and soon.”
Any decision to take industrial action must be approved by the RCM’s elected board.
The RCM will look at the result of the ballot and consider the next steps.