Nursing staff calling for a better wage offer and improved workloads say they are sick of being told they're heroes but then not being adequately paid or resourced.
The nurses made the comments at a rally at Foreshore Park on Saturday, which followed the NSW Ministry of Health offering nurses what amounts to a 1.04 per cent pay increase, should the federal government's 0.5 per cent superannuation increase proceed on July 1.
The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWNMA) said it would mean nurses would be forced to pay for their additional super out of the scheduled 1.5 per cent pay rise on offer.
The union said the NSW Government also rejected improvements to the Public Health System Nurses' and Midwives' Award, including nurse-to-patient ratios.
NSWNMA Belmont branch nurse Kaitlin Arvidson said "legislated nurse-to-patient ratios save lives, save money and increase nurses' job satisfaction".
"We know this because nurses in Victoria and Queensland have ratios," she said. "Studies found during the first three years that ratios were introduced in Queensland, they prevented 145 deaths, 255 readmissions, 29,200 hospital days and saved 81 million dollars."
Ms Arvidson also said nurses last year were only given a 0.3 per cent pay rise, after receiving 2.5 per cent annually in the years before.
"In 2020 we were really worried about bringing COVID home to our families ... but we rose to the challenge.
"Premier Gladys Berejiklian said we are deeply grateful for their hard work, skill, care and the sacrifice they have made to keep us all safe. She showed that gratitude with a 0.3 per cent pay rise.
"In her government's eyes we were not even worth a pay rise that kept up with the cost of living let alone one that reflected the lives we saved or the economic shutdown we helped avoid.
"Now in 2021 we as nurses and midwives have asked for safe staffing ratios and a respectful pay rise.
"We don't go into nursing to become millionaires but we do hope to be able to raise a family and keep up with the cost of living."
Kate Lawrence, a Maitland Mental Health branch nurse, said current standards meant patients might be lucky to receive medication on time.
"It's not unheard if that my colleagues have been required to care for nine or more patients per shift," she said. "Daily they are required to care for six patients, compared to Queensland and Victoria who have mandated ratios of four patients.
"We are tired of being injured by the very people we are trying to help. We are tired of being sworn at, kicked, punched, scratched, bitten, spat on, headbutted, sexually assaulted, strangled or even threatened with death.
"We are tired of being so busy we don't have time to complete documentation, let alone empty our bladders or have a meal break.
"We are tired of being told we're heroes. That everyone is so thankful for our service during the pandemic, only to be told in the next breath that we undeserving of a pay rise that keeps up with inflation.
"As for the pay rise, well like one of my colleagues said to me, I cannot pay my mortgage or sustain myself on revoked fireworks tickets alone. Nurses have spent years studying to be able to do their jobs.
"We deserve to be paid fairly for our job."
NSW Labor deputy leader and Swansea MP Yasmin Catley said the wage freeze 12 months ago was only meant to be temporary during the economic downturn of the pandemic.
"The government have now gone back on their word on that, which is outrageous," she said.
"Public sector workers have signed up to a deal with this government when they first came into power of 2.5 per cent every year ongoing, and now behind the shroud of the pandemic the government are being dishonest and not paying public sector workers the 2.5 per cent they deserve."