Nurses and health workers protesting the government's wage freeze outside The Tweed Hospital on May 31.
Nurses and health workers protesting the government's wage freeze outside The Tweed Hospital on May 31.

‘Slap in the face’: Waiting game after wage freeze blocked

TWEED frontline workers are now playing a waiting game after the State Government's bid to freeze public sector wages was blocked in the upper house.

The NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian will now seek the pay freeze through the Industrial Relations Commission.

Labor and the crossbench torpedoed wage freeze regulation in the Upper House on Tuesday evening.

The government will now ask the Industrial Relations Commission to impose the public sector pay freeze.

On Sunday night, a $1000-a-head peace offering was made to frontline workers in a last-minute bid by the State Government to win support from major unions on the year-long pay freeze.

More than 330,000 public servants would be eligible for the $1000 one-off payment in the State Government's $3 billion savings measure.

NSW Nurses and Midwives Association' Brett Holmes said members were relieved a disallowance motion succeeded and would not back down from the fight to secure their 2.5 per cent pay increase.

<<READ: FRONTLINE FURY: 'Unbelievable' timing for mooted wage freeze>>

"The government is confident it can convince the NSW IRC that nurses, midwives and other public sector workers are worth zero per cent in their contribution to the state," said Mr Holmes.

"Nurses and midwives face an enormous workload in the recovery from COVID-19, including tackling a massive elective surgery backlog, yet the government thinks this extra productivity amounts to zero.

"It's an insulting argument by the government which polarises and devalues thousands of nurses and midwives who already feel like yesterday's heroes. They've been put at risk by poor supply and shoddy quality personal protective equipment by a government unprepared for the pandemic.

"Public sector workers keep our communities safe and moving, alongside others, by spending their wages in local economies. The government should not be threatening jobs as an excuse for cutting their pay into the future."

<<READ: Wage war turns into words war for Tweed MPs>>

The association's Tweed Hospital branch secretary Pam Barrett said the situation felt like a slap in the face.

"I think it's really disappointing to all public sector workers, from teachers to nurses to have done exactly what the government has asked us to do … we have prepared ourselves and trained and been under a lot of stress.

"We care about our community but we are also concerned about our own lives. You just have to look at the numbers overseas to see the nurses who have died.

"The politicians have done a good job with safeguards but we have worked hard to make sure we got it right for our community."

Ms Barrett said there were still more phases of easing restrictions, their work was not done yet.

"Personally, I'm not trying to undermine anyone else when people say 'You know you have a job, you should be grateful.' Well, we are grateful but we are frontline workers as well," she said.

The association filed an application to NSW IRC last month seeking the 2.5 per cent pay increase for nurses and midwives and the case is ongoing.