Minister dodges wage freeze questions
The Liberals have shown how little they value the public health service by cancelling a scheduled pay increase for health workers.
During a NSWNMA rally against the wage freeze outside Parliament House in Sydney, nurse Skye Romer spotted health minister, Brad Hazzard, and took the opportunity to introduce herself.
Skye told the minister she had just watched his video thanking nurses and midwives for striving to keep the public safe during COVID-19.
She asked him if he would therefore be opposing his government’s decision to freeze nurses’ wages.
“He didn’t want to answer any of my questions and said it was a matter for Cabinet,” she told The Lamp.
As secretary of the Association’s Prince of Wales Hospital mental health branch, Skye has spoken to many nurses about the wage freeze.
“Almost all of them are outraged,” she said. “Some have said things like, why would we continue to work under extreme pressure for the community while the government continues to slap us in the face?
“In mental health, nurses are frequently spat on, assaulted and abused. Why would we continue to do that work for less money?”
She points out that the state government has not even guaranteed to pay the 2.5 per cent increase next year.
“How will this affect nurses’ earnings over the long term and superannuation payouts on retirement?
“The 2.5 per cent was supposed to keep us in line with cost of living increases, so what will the wage freeze mean for our purchasing power? Especially if you are the only person paying the mortgage?”
An NSWNMA survey of members shows the freeze will initially cost nurses and midwives, on average, $160 in lost wages per month.
“The 2.5 per cent was the result of a government decision in 2011 that saved billions,” Skye said.
“It’s okay for the Premier’s Liberal Party friends to line their pockets with massive wage increases – the rest of us are told to just suck it up.
“Well, we have already sucked it up by going to work during a pandemic – because it’s our job and we care – and this is how we’re thanked.”
In July, federal health minister, Greg Hunt, said the relatively high survival rate of COVID-19 patients in Australia was due to hospitals having ample ICU capacity and surge capacity and “arguably they have the best doctors and nurses and systems in the world”.
However, the wage freeze in NSW shows the state government doesn’t really care about public health, Skye said.
“Liberal politicians should understand that if they end up in hospital and are sick enough, they won’t stay in the private system, they will come across to the public.
“Most people would want their hospital to be funded properly and staff paid properly so they are happy to come to work and do a good job.
“How will that be achieved by cutting nurses’ wages?”
Skye has joined other nurses in handing out leaflets outside the offices of two Liberal MPs.
“Almost every member of the public I’ve spoken to has been extremely supportive of our campaign,” she says.
“A lot of people ask to have their photos taken with us to put on social media.
“They are thankful for the work of nurses and other essential services workers who have helped to keep society functioning through the pandemic, regardless of the dangers.”