NSW State Wide Industrial Action: Standing Up For What We Deserve

  • Published June 15, 2022

It’s fair to say that HSU members have had a very tough few years, being on the frontline with a global pandemic raging through our country – putting not only our members health at risk but also their loved ones and their communities. The repeated sacrifices HSU members have made for the wellbeing of the wider community have been well-documented. Frontline workers – whether in public health, aged care, ambulance or disability – have stood together to protect and support our most vulnerable.

But when members asked for a decent wage increase to help keep their heads above water, they were given a 0.3% wage increase in 2020 and 2.5% – inclusive of superannuation – in 2021. At a time when inflation is running well above 3%, pay rises for health workers have totalled 2.34% over the last two years, meaning members have taken an effective pay cut. How is that a fair go? How’s that for appreciation of the countless days and nights we worked around the clock ensuring everyone was kept safe? Members can’t survive on ‘thank yous’ alone.

On 7 April this year, HSU Secretary Gerard Hayes led members in statewide industrial action to make sure our voices were heard. In hospital and health facilities across the state, HSU members stopped work for up to 4 hours to show the NSW Government we are serious about fair and meaningful pay rises. From Tweed down to Pambula, Broken Hill across to Sydney we stopped work. Members took to the grass so the bean-counters could see how important they are to the running of our health system.

HSU members were out in full swing, with many packing out Trades Hall in Sydney. The support kept pouring in, with many HSU members sharing pictures, videos and heartbreaking accounts of themselves and their comrades speaking about the issues they faced during the height of the pandemic and concerns of trying to stay afloat with inflation running rampant. Unfortunately, many of the stories we received were among many other similar stories that we heard. One member spoke of his struggle to “…find a second job to make ends meet. It’s not enough.” It couldn’t be clearer that things need to change.

“We’re not going to stop. We’re going to do whatever it takes for members to get what they deserve.” – HSU Secretary Gerard Hayes

Members around the state endorsed resolutions to fight for an immediate pay increase of 5.5% to combat the rising tide of inflation, and to fight for award modernisation going forward – so that our job descriptions match the actual jobs we do in 2022.

HSU members know how important this battle is. Stephen is one of three HSU members at the tiny Bulahdelah Hospital. When his two co-members unfortunately contracted COVID-19, Stephen stood by himself and waved the union flag. But he wasn’t alone – he stood in solidarity with thousands of other members across the state. We are all in this together.

As frontline workers, HSU members were asked to forget their own safety, work long hours in unbearable conditions, covered in uncomfortable PPE and without an end in sight – only for the NSW government to abandon them in their hour of need. It’s time for members to come together, stand shoulder to shoulder and demand what is fair. The all-too-common stories we’ve heard of health workers needing to get a second job just to support their families must become a thing of the past. We’ve had enough of politicians' empty thanks for being heroes of the pandemic – it’s time we got real thanks. This means a significant pay rise to combat the soaring cost of living. "The cost of living is going up, but my wages are going down" another member said at Westmead Hospital.

Now is a time like no other to get your colleagues to join our fight. Our strength comes from numbers and collective strength is more important now more than ever. It’s time to make sure your workplace looks out for your best interests as the cost of living goes up.

We’ve stepped up to the challenge of a global pandemic – now it’s time to step up to our next big challenge, the government. This is our time. The last 2 years have been tough for everyone, but the phenomenal work that HSU members have achieved will go down in the history books. You protected our communities when we needed it most and it’s time for your government to step up and protect you against the increased cost of living.