NSW nurses condemn wage freeze as ‘callous’ and making ‘no economic sense’

Campaigning against a wage freeze in June. Photo: NSW Nurses and Midwives Association / Facebook

The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association voted overwhelmingly against the New South Wales government’s public sector wage freeze at its annual conference on July 23, saying it was “morally disgraceful, callous and it makes no economic sense.”

General secretary Brett Holmes said nurses and midwives had already spent 10 weeks campaigning against the wage freeze and were committed to continue until they achieved fair pay.

The motion called on the NSW government to heed its own treasury advice which was that any pay freeze will “worsen the recession” as public sector workers “support local economies by spending our wages in local shops and businesses”.

“Nurses and midwives continue to put our lives on the line in order to protect the community through the pandemic and our commitment deserves to be acknowledged. We should not be punished with a wage freeze that will affect the rest of our working lives,” the motion read in part.

Holmes reported that nurses and midwives’ conversations with businesses about how a wage freeze would hurt the whole economy have resonated especially among rural and regional communities that are still recovering from drought and the Black Summer fires.

“Numerous economists have implored the government not to proceed with a public sector wage freeze. Even Treasury has conceded that reducing public sector wage growth would deepen the recession,” Holmes said.

Nurses and midwives in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania will receive pay rises  this year, while Queensland has promised two increases next year.

Holmes argued that NSW is still in a strong fiscal position and during the pandemic nurses have fronted up “despite the risks and personal sacrifices”. Their commitment deserves to be acknowledged.

NSW Rail, Tram and Bus Union secretary Alex Claassens also criticised the pay freeze. “Our members have helped their communities to get through droughts, fires and now the pandemic,” he said. “They deserve the state government’s gratitude, but instead they’re getting kicked in the guts. We’ll be fighting this outrageous pay freeze proposal all the way.”

Under the NSW government's plan to freeze state public sector wages, more than 400,000 public sector employees would be forced to forego a 2.5% pay increase for 12 months.

Labor, the Greens and minor parties blocked the government’s pay freeze regulation in the Legislative Council in early May. Premier Gladys Berejiklian then took the pay freeze proposal to the NSW Industrial Relations Commission where the case is continuing.

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