‘Kick in guts’: Nurse gives evidence to industrial umpire
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 today 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 will slow recovery by curbing the spending of workers.
Speaking to the Tweed Daily News, the Cabarita local said her home town was a prime example of a small community which would suffer in the wage freeze.
She explained the beachside 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.
"My evidence spoke about the personal impact on me and families like mine if we don't see a wage increase but also the impact on our communities.
"When it boils down to it I'm OK … I live with my partner in his house, I live in a beautiful part of the country, I work with good people and I can continue to support my kids even if it is harder.
"For me it's doable, but my biggest concerns are for the people it isn't doable for.
"They are the ones keeping our communities going.
"Just because I'm OK doesn't mean I shouldn't stand up for other people."
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 will continue tomorrow.
Thousands of local public sector workers to be impacted
ABOUT 1,100 health workers, 619 teachers, and 139 police officers in the Tweed Shire will be affected by the State Government's proposed public sector wage freeze according to the opposition.
Members of NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association at The Tweed Hospital gathered outside the building on the banks of the Tweed River to protest the plan to scrap frontline worker's 2.5 per cent pay rise on Tuesday.
Branch secretary Pam Barrett said: "We were really hurt by the suggestion that we weren't entitled to what we had agreed on right across the state. I think it was a slap in the face for the nurses and midwives of the Tweed as for all public sector workers."
She said while workers would be disappointed if the annual pay rise didn't increase it wouldn't affect the quality of their work.
"We will still do our job, we will provide the best possible care we can give but how we feel about politicians, we will certainly look at that next time around," Ms Barrett said.
Fellow nurse and union branch representative James Bugtay echoed her sentiments.
"The government has been saying they want to stimulate the economy by increasing spending but by decreasing the workers, especially the public sector workers pay, that just takes a back step towards the stimulation of the economy," he said.
He explained the pay increase would have gone towards a house deposit in the area or a holiday after the pandemic.
Standing against his government, State Member for Tweed Geoff Provest said he would continue to support public sector workers in opposing the wage freeze despite a sledge campaign led by Federal Member for Richmond Justine Elliot.
Mr Provest did not get the opportunity to vote on the motion to stop the wage freeze, as he sits in the Lower House, while the motion was considered in the Upper House.
However, in the Lower House Mr Provest voted against a motion which had a similar clause.
The motion was put forward by Labor MP Greg Warren and had three parts to it.
One point called on the State Government to "abandon its public sector pay cut, which is bad for jobs, bad for small business and bad for workers across New South Wales".
Other pointers were to "welcome the Legislative Council's decision to overturn the Government's public sector pay cut which would have cost the Western Sydney economy $555 million" and calling on the state to "adopt Labor's 'Made in NSW' local procurement policy to ensure the procurement power of Government is used to support jobs in Western Sydney".
Mr Provest said Ms Elliot was "childish" after resorting to name-calling in response to her labelling him a "liar" at a press conference on Tuesday.
"I was elected to look after people of the Tweed not western Sydney … if you have a look at the motion it's all about Sydney jobs, just that little bit at the end about the wage freeze," he said.
Labor Shadow Minister for the North Coast Adam Searle said reasonable wage increases are a vital stimulus measure for local economies.
"Now is the time to put dollars in pockets, not take them away," he said.
"Struggling local small businesses will also suffer if people have less money in their pockets
"Whichever way you look at it, this pay cut is unfair for local workers and the local