Nurse speaks out at com­mis­sion

Tweed Daily News - - NEWS - JES­SICA LAMB

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.

Sharon Hickey

KICK IN THE GUTS: NSW Nurses and Mid­wives' As­so­ci­a­tion Mur­willum­bah mem­ber Angie Git­tus.pic­ture:

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