NSW health workers take action over stalled pay rises

The Canberra Times, 29 May 2023

NSW paramedics, nurses and other health workers are ramping up industrial action, impatient that a promised pay hike has failed to materialise two months after Labor took office.

Scrapping the three per cent public sector wage cap was a key promise of Labor's election campaign and unions are disappointed with the lack of progress.

The Health Services Union says workers will walk off the job on Wednesday at several hospitals across NSW, but patient safety won't be impacted.

Union boss Gerard Hayes is "bitterly disappointed" with the lack of action from the government amid rising cost of living and says frustrated workers are prepared to escalate action to get a pay increase.
"There is still a lot of talk and not a lot of action," he told AAP on Monday.

The union is calling for a six per cent pay rise, noting pay increases had not kept pace with inflation.

"This comes on the back of two years ago, the union got a point three per cent increase," Mr Hayes said.

"So people were struggling then. But now we are seeing inflation at seven per cent, it was nowhere near that before.

"We are seeing people's rents ratcheting up by 30 to 50 per cent. We are hearing that people are rationing food."

Mr Hayes said the industrial action would only increase, with the union holding its annual conference in July.

Premier Chris Minns says negotiations are under way but there won't be any legislation introduced into parliament this week to lift the wages cap.

"I'm very happy with the progress of those talks," he told reporters on Monday.

"The vast majority of unions have been sitting down and talking with us about the next stages, and hopefully we can say something about that soon.

"But anything we can do, obviously, to advance negotiations and prevent industrial action, that's what we want."

Opposition health spokesman Matt Kean said he was concerned about the ongoing industrial action.

"This is industrial action which we of course don't support, but nor do we support the misleading statements that were provided by Chris Minns to key health workers about pay rises in the lead up to the election."

Mr Kean said the government's dithering was bringing the health system to its knees.

"When it comes to his number one election promise, he's nowhere to be seen. Chris Minns needs to pick up the phone and sort this out," he said.

"It seems like he's lost Gerard Hayes' phone number."

Members of the NSW Australian Paramedics Association voted on Friday to continue their week-long ban on staff movements, despite the government seeking legal action to stop it.

Acting secretary Brendan McIlveen said paramedics had been leaving the job in droves.

"We can't sit around hoping for these critical issues to be addressed, and we won't be bullied out of fighting for them."