ON the same day it was revealed NSW paramedics will take industrial action for 24 hours next week, nurses at Belmont Hospital and the Mental Health Centre at Waratah walked out "en masse".
At the heart of the decisions to strike is what the nurses and paramedics describe as paltry pay offers from the NSW government.
On top of wanting a "fair go", the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association's Belmont Hospital branch is advocating for "safer" nurse-to-patient ratios.
At the same time, similar action took place at Shoalhaven, while nurses at Bowral, the Blue Mountains and Springwood took industrial action for one-to-two hours.
NSWNMA General Secretary Brett Holmes said the nurses weren't seeking exorbitant pay rises, they were just "exhausted and tired of feeling taken for granted".
"This past year has exacerbated ongoing staffing issues and taken a heavy toll on many nurses and midwives," he said.
"Today's actions indicate just how fed up nurses and midwives are with the current staffing shortfalls. They are constantly dealing with excessive overtime and unreasonable workloads. Many fear patient safety is regularly being compromised due to chronic understaffing."
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Earlier this week, NSWNMA members rejected the NSW government's "insulting" 1.04 per cent pay offer.
Our health workers have been hailed as heroes by our government for the past 15 months as Australians - compared to the rest of the world - have been kept well protected from COVID-19.
So it seems a bit rich to praise the wonderful work they're doing and then not be prepared to pay them what they're entitled for it.
The government has pointed to a challenging year financially, because of COVID-19, but it is scary to think that the same nurses who treat us so well when we're at our most vulnerable would consider quitting because of poor working conditions and derisory pay offers.
As Health Services Union NSW Secretary Gerard Hayes said of the paramedics, ahead of their strike next week, "they're not trying to get rich - they just want a fair pay rise that recognises the cost of living and the intensity of their work".
Last year paramedics were awarded "a paltry 0.3 per cent" and this year's proposed 1.5 per cent pay offer was again less than inflation, which NSW Treasury forecasts at 2.2 per cent for the coming year.
"They were exposed to a wild and deadly disease, yet they continued to serve the people of NSW and protect their health," Mr Hayes said. "To offer them a pay cut is humiliating and insulting."
It's hard not to be sympathetic to the nurses' and paramedics' cause. The government must find a way to satisfy our frontline health workers because they need them. And so do we.
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