NSW Health workers offered $3500 pay rise to end rolling strike action

Sydney Morning Herald, 7 July 2023

The state’s health workers have been offered a $3500 flat rate pay rise, which will see the wages of the lowest-paid staff jump by as much as 8 per cent and end threats of rolling industrial action.

In crisis talks to end the stalemate between the Health Services Union and the state government, Health Minister Ryan Park and Industrial Relations Minister Sophie Cotsis made a revised offer on Friday morning, just days before workers were planning to take further action.

The flat rate rise for health support workers would be instead of a percentage increase, which will result in the lowest-paid staff receiving a proportionally higher jump in pay.

Other public sector unions have opted for a 4 per cent rise plus 0.5 per cent superannuation for the next year as part of a $618 million package.

Health Services Union boss Gerard Hayes said the offer, which he will now put to members, would help his lowest-paid workers, who were struggling the most because of soaring cost of living pressures.

“I am asking some of our members who are paid $100,000, or in that range, to do me a favour and help people who are struggling, and I know we are all struggling, but some are struggling more than others,” Hayes said after the meeting on Friday.

Hayes said that security officers, hospital wards staff and administration workers could expect to see their wages rise between 4.5 per cent and 8.5 per cent. The $3500 payment is not a one-off and would be a permanent increase to base salaries for all NSW Health positions.

A sticking point remains around salary packaging, but Hayes said he hoped to have further talks with the government over the weekend to reach an agreement.

The HSU wants the government’s salary packaging scheme overhauled for health workers. Currently, health workers in NSW can only claim half the full entitlement of the salary packaging tax savings, while the rest goes to the government.

During the bitter and protracted negotiations with the Labor government, Hayes had said that his members were better off under the former Perrottet government. The HSU had sought a 6.5 per cent bump inclusive of super, or a flat-rate increase.

“Finally, we have had some meaningful negotiations,” Hayes said.

Hayes said he had been criticised for being the first union leader to come out publicly and attack the newly elected Labor government for its tardiness around pay rises for public sector workers.

“But if I didn’t go early, we wouldn’t be seeing this now. I make no apologies,” Hayes said.

Treasurer Daniel Mookhey was heckled over wages at an HSU conference earlier this week, with delegates voting to endorse “escalating industrial action” across the state unless they receive a better pay offer by Friday.

The HSU warned of the possibility of strike action by its members from as early as Monday, as well as a resumption of the stop-work orders that resulted in paramedics walking off the job in May.

Hayes will recommend to members that they abandon any planned action for Monday.