The wages cap is an attack on nurses and midwives living standards
The Perrottet government’s wages caps have so far cost NSW nurses and midwives $80,000 each.
The NSW Government’s wage cap is a disaster for everybody, but especially for women says NSWNMA general secretary, Shaye Candish.
“NSW is the second worst paid state in Australia because of this policy, making it near impossible to attract and retain staff in such a tight labour market,” Shaye explains.
“It’s clearly a bad policy for nurses and midwives, but it also has dire implications for regional economies and communities and the health sector overall.”
A report by the Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute into the impact of the wage caps since their introduction in 2012, shows public sector nurses and midwives will suffer a cumulative loss of $120,000 in pay by 2023–24.
“By the 2021–22 financial year, wages for an experienced nurse/midwife working full-time were $335 lower per week – or about $17,500 for the year – as a result of these pay caps in place since 2012,” it says.
“On a cumulative basis, this wage suppression amounts to a combined loss of $80,000 in wages since the wage caps were first imposed.”
The impact of the wage caps has become especially acute with the steep rise in inflation, the report says.
“Real wages for nurses and midwives have already fallen over 3 per cent in the last two years, reducing their real purchasing power by $3000 per year, per employee.”
The Australia Institute report says the pay caps have contributed to falling real wages and made it more difficult to attract workers to vital service roles like health care.
2.19% – in the 10 years since the pay caps were imposed, pay has grown at an annual rate of 2.19 per cent across all classifications
4% – in contrast, in the 20 years before the cap was imposed, average wages grew at almost 4 per cent per year.
On a cumulative basis, this wage suppression amounts to a combined loss of $80,000 in wages since the pay caps were first imposed.
If the pay caps are retained those losses will accumulate further over the next two financial years: to $390 per week in lost wages and a cumulative loss of $120,000 per nurse by 2023-24.
The wages cap reduces superannuation too
The NSW Government’s wages caps not only hurt nurses and midwives while they are working – they also have lasting, harmful consequences after they retire.
By 2021–22, an experienced nurse or midwife had already lost over $1700 in superannuation contributions on top of the $17,500 reduction in their wages that year. Forecast forward, that loss of annual contributions swells to over $2200 by 2023–24, according to the report by the Australia Institute.
After a decade of capped pay, super balances for experienced nurses and midwives were almost $7800 lower than if the pre-cap wage trajectory had been maintained. The loss grows quickly in future years – by 2023–24 the typical nurse or midwife will have lost over $12,500 in their super balance.
The wages cap makes it likely that more nurses will join the growing proportion of the population who cannot afford to buy a home.
NSWNMA general secretary, Shaye Candish, says that thanks to the NSW government’s ongoing wage caps, most nurses and midwives will fall well short of the thresholds considered for a “comfortable” retirement.
“Nurses and midwives across NSW will be unable to retire in dignity, the longer these cruel wage caps remain in place.”
What the wages cap costs a nurse or midwife in super
$7800 – by 2021–22
$12,500 – by 2023–24
Where the parties stand on WAGES
The Coalition capped wages at 2.5 per cent from 2012 to 2020.
In 2020-21 during COVID, nurses and midwives only received a 0.3 per cent pay rise.
More recently the government raised the cap to allow 3 per cent increases in 2022–23 and 3.5 per cent in 2023–24.
They are still committed to a cap on public sector wages.
The Greens are committed to repealing the NSW Public Sector Wages Policy, removing the wage cap on public sector workers and restoring the autonomous NSW Industrial Relations Commission as the independent umpire in industrial disputes.
Leader Chris Minns says Labor will abolish the wages cap and replace it with a system of bargaining based on productivity.