Nurse speaks out at commission
A TWEED nurse has given evidence to the state industrial umpire to champion against the NSW Government’s proposed public sector wage freeze.
The NSW Industrial Relations Commission is a result of Upper House Members of Parliament blocking the plan to see more than 400,000 public sector employees forego their 2.5 per cent annual pay rise for 12 months earlier this month.
The State Government then took the fight to the Industrial Relations Commission, which on Monday ruled workers are not guaranteed a 2.5 per cent pay rise under the state’s wages policy.
Lawyers for the government and the major public sector unions began their face off on Wednesday for the first day of hearings to determine what, if any, wage increase workers would receive.
One of the four unions involved in the case, NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association commissioned pollster Yougov to survey 2700 members, 85 per cent of whom were female.
The survey found nurses and midwives, on average, would lose out on an additional $160 in pay per month if the freeze went ahead, and would kerb their monthly expenses by an average of $350.
The association’s Murwillumbah branch delegate Angela Gittus, who works in the Murwillumbah District Hospital, provided a witness statement to the IRC highlighting the economic knock-on effects for small regional and rural communities if the freeze were to happen.
Ms Gittus said the freeze proposal was based on unsound economics, arguing it would slow recovery by curbing the spending of workers. The Cabarita local said her home town was a prime example of a small community that would suffer in the wage freeze.
She explained the village was heavily reliant on locals to keep businesses afloat after COVID-19 had affected the main source of income from tourism.
“Things like buying breakfast out, getting your hair done by the local salon, going to the farmers markets, getting a renovation done by a local tradie, taking a weekend trip – these are all things pushed along by public sector workers,” Ms Gittus said.
“For the economies of our communities to stay healthy, we need the wages to keep up with inflation and the general price of living.
“We aren’t asking for a lot, we are just asking for what was promised.”
Ms Gittus said nurses’ and midwives’ circumstances were as varied as the general population.
“There are single parent families, there are ones whose partners have lost their jobs in COVID-19 and are down from two incomes to one and also those who have to support other family members,” she said.
Mr Gittus used her own family as an example, providing financial support for one of her daughters who lost her job and residence in the pandemic.
She was also unable to offer her other daughter a place to stay because of Ms Gittus’s risk of exposure to COVID-19 in her job.
“Not to be acknowledged for the sacrifices we have made for our jobs and the challenges we have stepped up to is quite a slap in the face,” she said.
Ms Gittus encouraged locals to call, write an email or drop into their local member of parliament.
“It’s a kick in the guts,” she said. “Doesn’t matter what political party you are with – economically it isn’t a good decision and regardless of what team, you can have a chat and say this doesn’t work for my community.”
The IRC hearings continued on Thursday.
KICK IN THE GUTS: NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association Murwillumbah member Angie Gittus.picture: