Health workers to ramp up strikes in pay rise fight

Samantha Lock |

Industrial action will escalate in every NSW public hospital until health workers get a pay rise, with unions saying moral is crumbling over stalled wage negotiations.

The Health Services Union has flagged it wants the three per cent public sector wages cap lifted, followed by a 6.5 per cent wage increase before the agreement expires at the end of next month.

Eight weeks into a state Labor government, paramedics and patient transfer officers on Thursday imposed a 24-hour ban on transporting patients discharged from hospitals.

Union NSW secretary Gerard Hayes said there would be more industrial action until the issue was resolved.

“We will be holding industrial stoppages right around the state with every hospital … industrial action will continue and it will not stop,” he said.

Premier Chris Minns needed to reform all health services awards so they were fit for purpose, he said. 

“Paramedics in NSW are the highest injured and lowest paid,” Mr Hayes said, pointing towards the growing number considering moving interstate to ease cost of living hikes.

“Paramedics can go to Queensland tomorrow and I guarantee they will after the NSW government spent $100,000 training them,” he said.

Paramedics in Melbourne earned about 30 per cent more.

“Why wouldn’t you cross the border?”, Mr Hayes said.

Labor was swept to power in March on the promise of abolishing the public sector wages cap and increased pay for frontline workers.

Mr Minns said he was committed to removing the wages cap but it was important to do so “in a legislative way”.

“We have made progress. We know it’s a priority and I’m confident that we can get an agreement,” he said.

Mr Hayes said he saw no movement on the issue.

“All pigs are fed and watered and ready to fly. There is no progress,” he said.

The first step in negotiations would be lifting the salary cap and introducing a 6.5 per cent increase in wages. 

Mr Minns declined to comment about wage targets.

“I think it’s important to do that around the negotiating table,” the premier said.

“It still remains our policy to remove the wages cap. We will do it and we’re in the midst of negotiations.” 

Opposition Leader Mark Speakman called on the premier to make clear what his proposed public sector wage rise will cost the people of NSW.

“Prior to the election, the Parliamentary Budget Office found that costs would increase by $2.6 billion over three years if public sector wages rose by one per cent above the cap,” he said. 

Mr Speakman said the people of NSW would continue to face cuts in projects for Labor to meet the demands of unions.

Opposition health spokesman Matt Kean said the premier couldn’t be trusted to deliver on his number one election commitment: promising public servants huge pay increases while at the same time keeping the budget in surplus.