Debbie Ross, Branch Secretary of the Sydney Hospital, Sydney Eye Hospital branch, shares her thoughts on the NSW Government’s wages policy.
“The initial reaction from staff to the 0.3 per cent pay increase at our site is that they were gutted. They felt there was no respect for the work that had been done during COVID. The government announced the agreed 2.5 per cent increase wouldn’t be passed on even after the police commissioner was given a wage increase of $87,000.
“A lot of nursing staff are now their family’s only breadwinner after their spouse lost their job because of COVID, so they were relying on that 2.5 per cent to come through. It would have been a glimmer on the horizon.
“Now the government is telling us they will provide free tickets to frontline workers to attend the New Year’s Eve fireworks display. But there are staff who will have to work on New Year’s Eve, and others who won’t be interested in attending a function where social distancing can’t be guaranteed. It is about giving a little trinket. And it’s highly doubtful you’re going to make a trip if you are in a regional area.
“I’ve spent more money travelling to and from work during COVID. Instead of catching public transport to work, I am driving my car because I just don’t feel safe going on public transport now, when train carriages are very empty after hours.
“Early in the pandemic I also felt ostracised when I wore my uniform outside work, and lots of nurses who were wearing uniforms were being accosted.
“Some people weren’t wanting to tell people where they worked because of the anxiety in the community when the virus first hit.
“Our branch has organised a rally outside Parliament House and we did a radio interview. On 16 November, we attended a rally with public sector unions, to protest under the Tree of Knowledge in the Domain.
“Nurses were feeling really angry. There was a heightened feeling of a lack of respect for and acknowledgement of the work we’ve done; particularly fire fighters and health workers who lost their homes in the bushfires and still went in to look after people during the fires.
“At no stage did anyone say ‘We are not going to look after patients’.
“We still did it even though we were scared. Now we hear we are only going to get a 1.5 per cent increase in the future. It will affect our ability to pay off homes and save for retirement.
“At the end of the day, they had the money to pay the increase, but they chose not to. It’s an absolute slap in the face.”