From heroes to zero
Nurses in the southern NSW town of Albury are pointing to the hypocrisy of the state government’s simultaneous praise or, and punishment of, nurses during the pandemic.
To guard against COVID-19, theatre nurse Charlotte Todros wears a mask, goggles and visor throughout every long shift – an experience she describes as “suffocating”.
“One moment, Premier Berejiklian tells us we are doing a fantastic job putting ourselves at risk on the front line,” says Charlotte, president of the Albury Base Hospital branch of the NSWNMA.
“The next minute the Premier is saying the state can’t afford to honour its commitment to pay our annual wage increase – while giving huge pay rises to some ministers and top bureaucrats. That’s abhorrent.
“Nurses I work with – and their families – are going through a lot of mental anguish and stress. We band together every day and ask each other, are you okay?
“However, the people being rewarded by the government are already highly paid and are not the ones on the front line.”
The Albury branch’s first action against the wage freeze was a rally outside the hospital supported by NSWNMA branches at Nolan House mental health service and Albury community health.
“We had a fantastic turnout and got positive coverage on the front page of the Border Mail and a live feed on the ABC website and breakfast radio that morning.
“Albury being a regional town, everyone knows a nurse, fire fighter, ambulance officer or police officer – so our campaign has had strong public support.
“Yes, a lot of people have lost their jobs, but we are the local breadwinners and our wages keep the local economy going.
“In the current economic climate it’s even more vital that we do get that 2.5 per cent increase as promised by legislation.”
Pounding the pavement
Charlotte has “pounded the pavement” to enlist Albury’s shopkeepers in the campaign.
“Small businesses are mostly happy to put our signs up; they know nurses and midwives will spend their money in shops that show support for the campaign.
“The closure of the border has limited Victorians from crossing the border to shop in Albury, which means it’s now even more important for Albury people to be able to patronise local stores.
“It’s harder to get the big chains to display our signage but Platypus shoes, which is part of a very popular chain, did agree. They also need locals to keep spending in order to keep their doors open.”
Albury branch held a second rally outside the office of local Liberal MP Justin Clancy.
“His position was to support the wage freeze but he said he would present our views to the government,” Charlotte said.
She keeps branch members up to date with a weekly email and via social media.
“It’s important to keep members and supporters informed and not let the campaign fizzle out.”