LAST week they were "heroes", yet nurses, midwives and paramedics will be denied a 2.5 per cent pay rise if the NSW Government's proposed "wage freeze" goes ahead.
Nurses from the Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) gathered outside Kurri Kurri Hospital on Thursday to voice their opposition to the public service sector wage freeze.
"This has come at a time when nurses are being revered for the work they have done protecting the public during COVID-10," Lynne Williamson, secretary of Hunter ACAT NSW Nurses and Midwives Association branch, said.
"Gladys Berejiklian has given her bureaucrats a substantial rise prior to putting the 2.5 per cent wage freeze on nurses, and it is just not fair for nurses and their families.
"They have had to work through this time under duress, with a lack of equipment, and in incredibly stressful working conditions due to the changing environment COVID has caused.
"They are exposed to it at a greater rate than most of the community - and there is no danger money. Now this."
More than 11,400 public servants in the Hunter are facing wage cuts under the proposal, almost 3000 of those are health workers.
NSW Nurses and Midwives Association organiser Darius Altman said the wage freeze was a slap in the face.
"Last week they were heroes. This week they are getting a pay cut," Mr Altman said. "Nurses feel quite insulted that the government is ignoring the sacrifices they have made, and are still making each day at the bedside.
"The long hours, the overtime, working throughout an unprecedented pandemic and not knowing what's around the corner - that's quite scary, and this is how they are rewarded.
"This, in the International Year of the Nurse. It's appalling."
Mr Altman said the Hunter's nurses believed the wage freeze to be a "cruel decision" that would do more harm than good in regional communities.
"There is going to be less people spending in local businesses. If there is no money to spend, there's no customers to buy things, and there's no jobs," he said.
"There are going to be a lot of families relying on public sector income, especially nursing families, where they may now be the sole income earner now.
"A lot of people are out of work while they wait for pubs and clubs and other businesses to re-open.
"It is economically irresponsible to do this.
"Nurses are calling on the government not to make this mistake, and they are seeking the support of crossbench MPs to block it in the Upper House."
The Australian Paramedics Association NSW said the government's announcement to freeze the pay of public sector workers for 12 months was "disgraceful".
Association president Chris Kastelan said paramedics, and their colleagues, had been crucial to overcoming the COVID-19 crisis.
He said while the government had praised them as heroes for their hard work, they had served up a pay freeze that would ultimately send wages backwards.
"The wage freeze proposal is offensive, when you consider how much paramedics and our colleagues have done for the people of NSW," Mr Kastelan said.
"We have been out on the road, putting ourselves and our family at risk for the good of our patients and have received a kick in the teeth by the NSW Government for our efforts.
"This government claims to be grateful for everything we have sacrificed, but clearly their words are nothing more than lip service."
Premier Berejiklian said the measure would save the government $3 billion.
She said every public servant would forgo a 2.5 per cent pay rise for 12 months, but the policy would be accompanied by a guarantee of no forced redundancies.
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