NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has dismissed calls of a pay rise across the health sector as thousands of workers prepare to strike.
“NSW government has led the way when it comes to wage increases across the country and this has been lost in the debate,” the premier told reporters on Tuesday from the flood-hit town of Wardell.
“A 2.5 per cent pay increase annually over this period of time has far exceeded private sector wage growth. That’s a fact,” Mr Perrottet noted.
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His comments come ahead of plans by thousands of NSW healthcare workers to walk off the job on Thursday demanding higher wages, following strikes by paramedics and nurses last week.
Under the state’s wages cap, public sector pay increases cannot legally exceed 2.5 per cent but the Health Services Union maintains this is not enough with inflation running at 3.5 per cent.
“We don’t need another politician thanking us for being heroes of the pandemic, we need a pay rise,” said HSU NSW secretary Gerard Hayes.
The planned industrial action on Thursday will include stopping work for four hours at major metro hospitals and two hours at regional hospitals.
The union says it will include workers across ambulance, cleaning, allied health, admin, security, catering and wards.
“Health and hospital workers are being smashed by higher prices and stagnant wages,” Mr Hayes said.
Taking a more conciliatory tone, Health Minister Brad Hazzard said health workers “were entitled to make known their views”.
“You can be absolutely certain that I advocate on every issue that the health workers raise with me…I’ve made sure their messages are conveyed to the government”
But he noted his ministry would still go to the Industrial Relations Commission to try to prevent the planned industrial action in order to minimise any impacts on patients.
Mr Perrottet did not specify if negotiations had taken place with unions since he came back from parental leave.
“I’m working through this in a way that ensures that we have strong wage growth in the public sector,” he said.
“Whether you’re a nurse, whether you’re a teacher, whether you’re a paramedic, I want to make sure that our public servants have the best pay possible”, the premier said, adding that NSW along with Queensland were the only states with a 2.5 per cent public sector pay rise.
The planned stoppages follow similar actions by paramedics and nurses last week.
Nurses from up to 170 hospitals statewide took part in a series of rallies on Thursday, with masses of them carrying placards protesting outside Parliament House in Sydney asking for more staff on hand.