The door is still open for a new deal for Manitoba's midwives.
But after working for nearly two years without a contract and a number of meetings with a provincial conciliator, the 30 midwives working in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority are still waiting for a new collective agreement with the province.
Midwives represented by CUPE 2348, who saw their collective agreement expire March, 31, 2014, voted 91 per cent in favour of a strike mandate in January.
A CUPE spokesman said another conciliation meeting is set for March 9.
"We met with the provincial conciliator yesterday (Wednesday) so negotiations are moving along, and we have another meeting set for next week, so we have not set a strike date yet," the spokesman said. "As long as talks continue, we will work our hardest to reach a fair deal without having to take strike action or set a date. There has been some progress at the bargaining table, and that's why another meeting has been set."
The issues are wage equality and equity within the profession, as Manitoba's midwives are paid less than other provinces such as Saskatchewan, as well as funding to train more midwives.
There are 53 midwives working in Manitoba, but there is a need for 150 more, the CUPE spokesman said.
Alicia Thwaites, who is part of a group of supporters for midwifery in Manitoba, said it would be "devastating" if the midwives were forced into strike action because people applying for midwifery care are counting on that assistance.
"There aren't enough words to convey how important having a midwife was to me," said Thwaites, a mother of two young boys aged 3 and 18 months who were both born with the help of a midwife. "My husband and I have discussed the possibility of having a third child. With no midwives, the hands-down answer would be no. I couldn't do it without them."
Thwaites said there is such a shortage of midwives that, when she applied early in her first pregnancy, she was in tears after getting four rejection letters right away. When she was 14 weeks pregnant, she got a phone call offering her a midwife.
"What they offer to people is so much more than just catching a baby," Thwaites said. "They empower you with information, they make sure you understand everything that's going on with your body, with the baby. Whenever it comes to the standard-issue tests they (doctors) run when you're pregnant, they (midwives) explain everything, and everything is presented to you as a choice. It's somebody that is personally invested in you."
She said obstetricians are also caring professionals but have such a large client load, it is more difficult to offer the personal connections midwives can provide.
"It (having a midwife) was life-altering for me," she said. "I think that every parent and every family in Manitoba that wants it should have access to this kind of care."
Anyone interested in having a midwife for their pregnancy and child birth must apply for the service by calling the centralized intake line at 204-947-2422 (ext. 307)
There are midwifery services offered in Winnipeg through five clinics including Access Downtown, Access River East, Access Winnipeg West, Midwifery Services of Mount Carmel Clinic and the Women's Health Clinic Birth Centre.