Zoom conferencing with the Opposition leader, demonstrating outside state parliament and meeting face-to-face with the Treasurer of NSW are some of the actions taken by nurse Cindy Bulaon in the campaign to overturn the public sector wage cut.
As the NSWNMA’s assistant branch secretary at Concord Hospital, (she has since left Concord) Cindy Bulaon found herself in the thick of the anti-wage freeze campaign.
One of the branch’s first actions was to set up an online meeting between state Labor leader Jodi McKay and branch members Alison Brannelly, Mavi Giacomello (branch steward) and Cindy.
“The branch had worked with Jodi during the ratios campaign and we wanted to make sure she would continue to support the nurses and midwives by campaigning to stop the wage freeze,” Cindy said.
“Jodi pledged to continue to support us and arranged to attend a media conference with the Shadow Minister for Health, Ryan Park, and Concord nurses in front of the hospital.
“Alison, Mavi, branch delegate Stephen Mansfield and I got together to make placards and posters for the media conference.
“It got a lot of coverage, with Alison and Mavi both interviewed on television, and sent a strong message against the wage freeze. Our general secretary, Brett Holmes, also attended and spoke to the media.
“We had to limit the numbers in attendance because of Covid social distancing.
“But those who did attend were senior nurses with long service at Concord.
“The next day, Jodi and Ryan Park joined our branch meeting online to thank us for our work during Covid and assure us we had their support.”
Putting our case to Treasurer Perrottet
With the pay freeze legislation due to be voted on by parliament’s Upper House, Cindy decided to write a personal letter seeking support from Christian Democratic Party leader, Fred Nile, who had not indicated his position on the legislation.
“I thought that maybe I could get through to Fred Nile as a fellow Christian,” Cindy said. “He replied within 24 hours to say he did support the nurses and would vote against the wage freeze.
“I wrote back to say it was fantastic to have his support and I would love to see him at the forthcoming nurses’ rally outside Parliament House.
“I didn’t speak to Reverend Nile at the rally but he did come outside and indicate support for nurses – only to turn around and vote with the Liberals on the day.
“I was really angry, because he’s supposed to be a Christian minister. But a lot of politicians will say one thing and do the opposite.”
During the protest, Treasurer Dominic Perrottet agreed to meet three NSWNMA representatives in his Parliament House office. So Cindy joined a NSWNMA organiser and RN Lisa Barry, Branch Secretary, POW at the meeting.
“It was nerve wracking, but I wanted Mr Perrottet to know how strongly I felt about the wage freeze,” Cindy said.
“I told him we deserve this pay increase because we work very hard for it in very difficult conditions – and not only during this pandemic. The money will go back into the economy through our local shops and to pay our bills.
“For instance, on 1 July the government introduced a toll on the M5 East tunnels, which my husband uses to get to work every day. That’s $6.95 for a one-way trip.
“Mr Perrottet obviously wasn’t open to changing his mind; it felt like he just wanted to show that he was willing to listen to us.”
A slap in the face
Cindy says the pay freeze had made her feel “very undervalued” by the state government.
“They don’t understand what we face every day, especially in trying to keep ourselves and the public safe during COVID.
“This pay freeze was a slap in the face and to do it on International Nurses Day was horrendous.”
“We should also remember the cleaners who have had a big increase in their workload. They were already short-staffed and then had to clean to a higher standard twice a day.
“Cleaners work just as hard as nurses and doctors and don’t get the accolades they deserve.”
Cindy says she is particularly upset by Premier Berejiklian’s decision to freeze nurses’ wages while awarding huge increases to some politicians and top public servants.
In July, it was revealed that Ms Berejiklian had quietly handed a $17,000 pay rise to her finance minister, Damien Tudehope, and a $90,000 pay rise to police commissioner, Mick Fuller.
She did this despite saying “The only way NSW will come out of this crisis in a strong position is if we all make sacrifices, and that’s what we’re asking our own workforce to do.”