Over 400,000 public sector workers in NSW will have their pay rise slashed to just 0.3 per cent this year, following a decision in the Industrial Relations Commission.
It follows the NSW Liberal government’s demand that they forego a pay rise, so it can save money during the COVID recession.
They include paramedics, nurses, teachers and other workers who have been on the frontline of responding to the pandemic, and are some of those most at risk of infection through their jobs.
NSW public sector workers have had their wage rises held to just 2.5 per cent for the past nine years.
Despite earlier promises the NSW Liberal government has now also refused to commit to restoring their 2.5 per cent pay rise next year.
“We didn’t expect this level of disrespect,” Alicia Rodgers, the nurses’ union branch secretary at Nepean Hospital told The Lamp.
“Day in, day out, nurses and midwives turn up to work to fight COVID-19, knowing full well the risk of exposing ourselves and our families. This is not how you treat our dedication and commitment.”
Although Unions NSW Secretary Mark Morey said union leaders would “think about our legal options and our industrial options”, there is no sign of any industrial response.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Scott Morrison has demanded workers accept pay cuts, loss of shifts and changes to conditions to encourage employers to keep them in a job.
Too many union leaders have gone along with this instead of defending workers’ pay and conditions.
The ACTU even agreed to sit down with employers in a series of government-sponsored working groups to consider changes to workplace laws—as if this would produce anything for workers. After their collapse ACTU Secretary Sally McManus was still claiming that, “agreement could be reached if employers also looked to find common ground”.
But employers are only interested in finding ways to maintain their profits. To defend our pay and conditions, even in the context of the COVID recession, we are going to have to fight for them.