The Association of Ontario Midwives

The Association of Ontario Midwives

Rally for pay equity: speech

You cannot separate the worth of women from the worth of midwives. Women grew midwifery in Ontario, it belongs to us. Women are worth it. Midwives are worth it.

katrinaOn June 1st, over 600 supporters rallied at Queen’s Park in support of pay equity for midwives. With just days to organize, the issue of pay equity for midwives received an outpouring of support – imagine what we can do with a whole summer to organize!

Though the midwifery system has at times received support from all three political parties, midwives as workers have not. When this profession was created in 1994, the Ministry of Health commissioned a report that looked at the training, scope and responsibilities of midwives to determine, using an evidence based approach,  how much this new female-dominated profession should be paid - to determine what midwives were worth to the Ministry and to the people of Ontario.

At that time in history pay equity was very much on policy makers’ minds and a conscious attempt was made to ensure that we did not underfund this new profession simply because it was staffed almost entirely by women. If only these original policy makers had had the foresight to include a process for that pay scale to be regularly reviewed and updated, we would likely not be here today. Unfortunately, in the time since that decision the commitment to pay equity has been lost.

Midwives have spent the intervening years dedicating themselves completely to the creation of an outstanding midwifery system in this province. Indeed, we’ve not only created excellent midwifery care in Ontario, we’ve championed a model of care that is the envy of the world. As midwives, we committed ourselves to the exceptional care of women and babies in this province, we created a midwifery education system that has set the world standard for direct entry midwifery, we got effective self-regulation up and running, we spent hours ensuring that midwifery was properly integrated into our hospitals.

Typical of care giving professions and women’s work historically we did not successfully put our own needs or the needs of our own families on the government agenda. Midwives went 11 years without any pay increase at all. Let me be clear –  while others were receiving 2, 3 and 4 per cent increases, midwives received,  zero, and zero, and zero, and zero, and zero, and zero, and zero, and zero, and zero, and zero, and zero.  

Even after one partial adjustment in 2005 midwives have in every other instance had increases that are less than other comparable health care workers.  What possible reason can be given for this? How can any government construe this as anything other than paying midwives as little as they can get away with? Where was the stewardship that was promised for the midwifery program?

Some might say that the partial adjustment we received in  2005, after 11 years with no increase,  was  good enough and that we should be satisfied with what we are compensated. In reality, midwives in this province have not been paid fairly since 1995. We want an explanation from this government about why other professions are more highly valued than midwives.  Why is it that year over year, doctors, teachers, police officers, crown attorneys, nurses, professors, not to mention, MPPs all receive compensation increases – but not midwives.

It isn’t good enough for women or for midwives to earn less than other comparable professions. A recent independent third party report factored in the 2005 increase, and even with this increase, midwives are still working at 20% below our health care colleagues.  

It’s just not good’s just something governments have been able to get away with. Is it because midwives are a small, powerless profession made up of women? Is this government content to pay midwives as little as they can get away with? Midwives are subsidizing the health care system to the tune of 20% of what they should be paid – what other profession has been asked to do this?

Year after year, contract after contract midwives have been given reasons why the government couldn’t come to the table right now, why, once they did finally sit down they just couldn’t afford to pay midwives as fairly as they committed to in 1994.

Midwives deliver excellent results. We provide 24 hour coverage, care in the home and a reduction in visits to the ER. We support normal birth. Women in midwifery care have a c-section rate approximately half of the rate for the rest of the province, our induction rates are lower, our epidural rates are lower, our instrumental delivery rates are lower and our hospital length of stays are much shorter. We work incredibly hard to allow women and babies to spend as little time as they need to in expensive hospital care and instead we provide care to them in their communities and in their homes.

While we have seen some commitment to the growth of the midwifery program, we have not seen the same level of commitment to the front line workers who are providing the care. How can we expect the profession to grow and thrive if we are not properly valuing the people who are doing the work?

If midwives are told that they are not worth as much to this government as the colleagues they work next to, what message does that give to our young people who are considering a midwifery career? How do we attract the best and brightest to the profession of midwifery and how do we retain graduates in the provinceof Ontario? Women want midwifery care – 40% of women in this province who want a midwife, can’t get access to one. There is only one way to solve this access issue – build a solid foundation for the profession that includes paying midwives fairly.

We want an explanation from this government about why police and prison guards are more highly valued than midwives. Why Premier McGuinty and Finance Minister Duncan are willing to give 9.75% to prison guards including a 4% bonus to reduce absenteeism rates, and 13.5% to the OPP to address a pre-existing shortfall and a commitment to, not pay equity, but pay superiority by 2014. All this for men with guns and nothing to the women who deliver our babies.

For 11 years, midwives had no increase. And now we have fallen behind. We’re staring at a pay equity gap and we need government action now. The families of this province have clearly stated that they want midwifery care and that they value that care highly when they receive it.

We need a government that respects and values midwives and the results, excellence and cost saving that we bring to each and every one of you and to all Ontarians.

You cannot separate the worth of women from the worth of midwives. Women grew midwifery in Ontario, it belongs to us. Women are worth it. Midwives are worth it.  The people of this province who value midwives want to know who to vote for.

Katrina Kilroy, RM

President, Association of Ontario Midwives