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Government freezes pending pay rise for nurses

By Daniel Hughes

Nurses on the front lines of the Coronavirus pandemic are facing the prospect of what they claim is a ‘‘cruel’’ wage freeze being legislated by the state government.

New South Wales Nurses and Midwives’ Association Finley branch secretary Matt Mills said he is disappointed in the government.

He said all hospital staff watch the verbal support from politicians, yet they refuse to support a wage increase next financial year.

‘‘We are on the front line and hearing praise from (Premier) Gladys Berejiklian, but it doesn’t fill us with confidence when her government turns around and tries to freeze our wages,’’ Mr Mills said.

‘‘During our last enterprise agreement, we had a lot of claims lodged regarding patient:nurse ratios, so we had a 2.5 per cent pay increase negotiated then.

‘‘To combat the potential wage freeze, the union has asked us to write to our local member of parliament.

‘‘Helen Dalton (Member for Murray) has been amazing; she has been very supportive, but we need other members around the state to follow suit to stop this.

‘‘Last financial year politicians received an eight per cent pay rise and we only had 2.5. If they didn’t get such big increase each year, maybe the government could afford our 2.5 per cent.

‘‘For myself, that would be a little more than $1 an hour increase, and for drivers and cleaning staff it would only be about 50 cents.

‘‘It’s not a lot but over a year, this really makes a difference.’’

Mr Mills said regional hospitals already struggle to attract new staff and if a wage freeze is confirmed, it will be even harder.

‘‘We are very understaffed in our rural towns; our patient to nurse ratio is not the same as metropolitan areas.

‘‘If we aren’t offering that monetary incentive to join the industry, how are we going to attract new staff to our rural communities?’’