Labor’s below-inflation wage offer falls flat with NSW unions

The Daily Telegraph, 5 June 2023

A pay offer which will see frontline workers wages fail to keep up with inflation is not good enough, union leaders say, paving the way for more industrial action from healthcare workers.
UnionsNSW Secretary Mark Morey joined a number of union leaders on Monday calling the 4.5 per cent offer “a bit disappointing” because it failed to keep up with inflation.

It came after Treasurer Daniel Mookhey and Industrial Relations Minister Sophie Cotsis announced the government would offer to increase public sector wages by four per cent, and increase superannuation by 0.5 per cent, in a one-year-only deal.

Multiple union leaders told The Daily Telegraph that they were taken by surprise when Mr Mookhey announced the offer.

However, it is understood the government contacted union bosses on Sunday night ahead of its public release.

The wage offer would allow for pay rises from July 1, to increase wages while a newly announced Industrial Relations Taskforce works on a framework to replace the public sector wages cap.

“This pay increase will see a School Support Officer get an additional $2,484 per year, a correctional officer $2,799 per year,” Mr Mookhey said.

He said a Year Two paramedic would get an extra $3,189, a firefighter would get $3,491, and a registered nurse $2,694.

It is expected to cost the budget $618 million next financial year.

The 4.5 per cent pay rise goes further than that proposed by the Coalition, which went to the election offering a three per cent pay increase next financial year.

The offer represents the biggest pay increase since 2011, but union leaders were angry on Monday that it will not keep up with inflation.

The Unions NSW boss said that the movement will continue to fight for “increased wages and conditions that keep up with the cost of living”.

“I’m never satisfied. In a wage negotiation you always want more, simply to recognise the cost of living situation in NSW for our workers,” he said.

However, he said the offer is an acknowledgment from the Labor government that it needs “to repair the damage done” under the Coalition.

“After 12 years of suppressing wages, there’s a lot that needs to be repaired if we are going to retain and attract workers to NSW.”

Ms Cotsis acknowledged that the figure would fall short of expectations.

“I understand there’ll be frustration and I’ve listened but it’s this is the biggest pay rise since 2011,” she said.

Outspoken Health Services Union boss Gerard Hayes said the 4.5 per cent increase on offer for the next financial year “certainly will be of concern” to his members.

He will put the offer to a meeting of HSU members next month.

Mr Hayes had been campaigning for a 6.5 per cent pay rise, as well as a range of additional conditions. He has flagged further strike action if his members’ demands are not met.

Public Service Association Secretary Stewart Little said he was “encouraged by the momentum” of negotiations so-far and would “have more to say” soon.

Mr Morey welcomed the establishment of a new Industrial Relations Taskforce to change the way wages are negotiated

The task force will be charged with implementing a new wage framework to replace the Coalition’s public sector wages cap.

Opposition Treasury spokesman Damien Tudehope said the wage offer was a “slap in the face” to workers.

“It is duping them in terms of the what they were told before the election,” he said.