NSW public sector workers offered 4.5 per cent pay increase

The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 June 2023

Union leaders in NSW have criticised a 4 per cent pay offer from the new Labor government, saying it fell short of what’s needed to deal with crippling cost of living pressures.

Treasurer Daniel Mookhey confirmed on Monday that the government will offer public sector workers a one-year 4 per cent pay rise plus 0.5 per cent superannuation at a cost of $618 million.

The offer, which was revealed by this masthead last month, would apply to a swath of public sector workers whose agreements are due to expire at the end of this month, including the Health Services Union.

Mookhey hailed the offer as the largest single pay increase for the sector in more than a decade and said it would effectively make the previous government’s controversial wages cap “redundant”.
“We’re making progress and there is more work to do,” he said.

The new government has been under significant pressure to come good on its promise to scrap that cap. On Monday, Mookhey announced a new taskforce led by former Fair Work Commission deputy president Anna Booth and former Industrial Relations Commission president Roger Boland to begin work on a new IR framework in the state.

But the interim offer has not been resoundingly welcome. NSW HSU boss Gerard Hayes has been a vocal critic of the government for failing to move faster on wages, and while he said the offer will be presented to its members, he believes it “falls short”.

“The last monthly inflation read showed the cost of living increased 6.8 per cent in the last 12 months,” he said.

“NSW Health has an attraction and retention crisis that is draining our hospitals of the essential workers they need. The HSU intends to keep campaigning for a pay rise that recognises the skills and workload of health and hospital workers and the extraordinary cost of living pressures they face.”

Hayes has often found himself alone in pushing the government to move faster on wages as other union leaders play the waiting game ahead of what’s expected to be a broader industrial relations overhaul once the new taskforce reports later this year.

The head of Unions NSW, Mark Morey, also conceded the offer was “not what we were hoping for” but said the establishment of the taskforce was “a step in the right direction”.

“We will be continuing to campaign for higher wages for workers in NSW. We need to attract workers from other states to NSW, and while this is a step in the right direction, we have to get ahead of the pack,” he said.

“It’s going to require a lot of work and that will have to happen over the next couple of years.”