Furious NSW nurses and midwives have rallied outside their workplaces across the state this week to protest the Berejiklian Government’s public sector wage freeze.
In May, the NSW Government announced plans for a 12-month freeze on a scheduled 2.5% wage increase for more than 400,000 public sector workers including nurses, police, paramedics and teachers.
The wage freeze proposal was later blocked by the NSW Upper House in early June, but the government hit back, taking the fight to the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, which earlier this month handed down its decision to award public sector workers a 0.3% pay increase only, an outcome union leaders labelled shocking and disgraceful.
Demonstrating an unwavering condemnation of the public sector wage freeze, nurses and midwives have gathered during their breaks outside their workplaces this week to voice their opposition.
Protests took place outside workplaces including the Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick, at Westmead Hospital and at Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital.
Speaking outside Randwick’s Prince of Wales Hospital on Tuesday, Skye Romer, NSWNMA Prince of Wales Mental Health Branch Secretary, said members were disappointed their hard work and dedication, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, had been ignored.
“This wage freeze sends a clear message to nurses and midwives about the lack of regard our current state government have for nurses and midwives, as well as frontline workers, who put their health on the line to work through a pandemic,” she said.
The decision also illustrates the government’s disregard for democracy, Skye argued.
“This wage freeze was blocked in the Upper House but because the current state government didn’t get their way, they decided to take it to the Industrial Relations Commission. What kind of government takes nurses, midwives, paramedics, firefighters, teachers and other essential workers to court? We’d like to invite Gladys (Berejiklian), Dominic (Perrottet) and our health minister Brad Hazzard to come and do an overtime shift here with us because this isn’t an easy job. We turn up every day and this wage freeze is a huge slap in the face.”
Kay Burns, NSWNMA Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children Branch Secretary, said it was clear the NSW Government does not value the work of nurses and midwives battling COVID-19 head on.
“Our members were treating the state’s first COVID-19 patients in intensive care, leading the fight against a global health pandemic that came at us fast and furious,” Kay said.
“If NSW is touted as the ‘gold standard’ in COVID-19 response and suppression, why aren’t nurses and midwives getting the pay we have worked ourselves into the ground for? It’s offensive and we are livid.”
Suzanne McNeill, NSWNMA John Hunter Hospital Branch Secretary, echoed the sentiments, saying many nurses and midwives had been left demoralised by the government’s cruel decision.
“The 0.3% offer is a shocking outcome, considering what we have endured this year,” she said.
“Every day we’ve come to work and faced potential exposure to COVID-19 and the risks of taking it home to our loved ones or the communities we are here to protect.
“Slashing our hard-earned wages like this for twelve months is disgraceful. It’s left nurses and midwives with a bitter taste, after all we’ve put in through the pandemic.”