Thirteen midwives have resigned from the National and University Hospital of Iceland over the course of a few days, RÚV reports. Wage negotiations between the state and the Icelandic Association of Midwives have been in a deadlock for almost six months, with midwives asserting that neither their responsibilities nor their educational qualifications are being taken into consideration with respect to their salaries.
There are 275 midwives employed in Iceland, nearly 150 of whom work at the National and University Hospital. In 2015, midwives and other healthcare professionals went on strike. In the end, the terms of their contracts were determined through arbitration. In 2017, the district court ruled that the midwives who had gone on strike were entitled to payment for work they performed while the strike continued. The state had, in fact, deducted payment from the midwives’ salaries for every day of the strike, regardless of whether they were on duty or not. This ruling is now under consideration with the Icelandic Supreme Court.
María Egilsdóttir gave her notice this week, after working as a nurse for 21 years and a midwife for 13.
“When my two children, whom I’m very proud of, graduated less than a year ago from the University of Reykjavík and are making much more than I do after three years’ of university education, it gets you started thinking: am I just worthless? This is just stubbornness, and it just makes you angry.”
Guðrún Gunnlaugsdóttir also left her job, after working as a midwife for eight years and as a nurse for 18 years before that.
“I made the difficult decision to turn in my letter of resignation,” said Guðrún, “and in reality, there are a lot of reasons for that.” The question has been raised as to whether the midwives are preparing to strike, Guðrún said, but she said that is not their plan at present. “...[T]here’s just a growing sense of dissatisfaction,” she said.
Many of the midwives assert that this is more than just a salary issue. Rather, continued understaffing has put a great deal of stress on people in the profession. Anna Guðný Hallgrímsdóttir, who graduated as a midwife in 2015, is one of many in the profession who are considering resignation.
“It’s a bit strange, a little less than a year after getting a position at the hospital, to think about whether or not I ought to resign. It turns out that this dream job that you started in, maybe it’s not as much of a dream job as you thought. Of course, it’s great and I want to keep working here, but there need to be some changes made and staff increases.”
The next negotiation meeting between the government and the Midwives’ Association will be held after Easter.