Icelandic midwives have been fighting to improve their pay for nearly two years, but going on strike would prove ineffective due to on-call “emergency workers”.
Vísir reports that these past Easter holidays were a very busy time for midwives at the National Hospital. 39 babies were born from last Thursday alone, with only six midwives on duty per 24-hour period. This necessitated having to bring in midwives who were on call, and even those who were on vacation.
The reason for the shortage is simple: low wages. Midwives are simply not paid enough for the job to even be appealing to those who study the profession. Numerous midwives end up picking up extra shifts, often during the higher-paying night shift, just to make ends meet.
Midwives have been in negotiations with the government for nearly two years, and their last meeting was on March 22. This meeting did not bear any substantial results for the midwives, and so the struggle continues.
For workers in nearly any other profession, a collective bargaining impasse would in most cases lead to a strike. This is not really an option for midwives, director of the Midwives Association of Iceland Áslaug Valsdóttir explains.
“A strike is actually a pointless weapon in our hands, because there are always a certain number of emergency workers,” she told reporters. “So no one would really be affected by a strike but the midwives themselves.”
Another collective bargaining meeting is scheduled for 13:00 today. In the meantime, even as the general public has been showing significant grassroots support, the midwives are for the time being at the mercy of the state when it comes to getting better pay.