NSW’s public service and frontline workers offered $1k payment instead of pay rise

NSW public servants may get a one-off $1000 stimulus payment after the Berejiklian government decided to freeze their pay for 12 months.

Expected to cost $200 million, Treasurer Dominic Perrottet called union leaders on Sunday night with the offer, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The proposed 12-month wage freeze for 410,000 public sector workers is expected to save about $3 billion, which would be reinvested in public projects, but it’s facing a tough battle to get through the upper house.

The State Government wants to freeze pay rises to include the entire NSW public service and MPs, citing the economic hit brought on by COVID-19 restrictions.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said public sector jobs would otherwise be at risk and frontline workers had received 2.5 per cent annual pay rises since the coalition took office in Macquarie Street in 2011.

Unions NSW secretary Mark Morey said in a statement today the one-off payment was tantamount to short-changing workers.

He said the coalition government had “warped priorities”.

“These workers have risked exposure to COVID-19 to protect the public’s health. Now Dominic Perrottet wants to put his hand in their pocket and take out half a billion in modest pay rises that was due from June 30,” Mr Morey said.

“Why does Dominic Perrottet look for savings from the very people who have saved us?”

The NSW Government has a fight on its hands to get the 12-month public sector pay freeze through parliament, with upper house crossbench MPs vowing to block the $3 billion saving measure.

Ms Berejiklian last week raised the possibility of job losses amid the COVID-19 pandemic unless the proposed pay pause was endorsed on Macquarie Street.

But NSW Labor, the Greens and the Shooters Party flagged they will block the move in the Legislative Council, with one crossbencher arguing the coalition is engaging in “economic blackmail” during a health crisis.

Ms Berejiklian earlier this month sought a freeze on pay rises for MPs, which was extended last week to include the entire NSW public service comprising 410,000 workers.

“We have a number of options before us and what we’ve chosen is what we believe to be the fairest option,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“If this option isn’t accepted by the upper house, we have to go through other options.”

Greens MP David Shoebridge last week vowed to block the freeze in the state’s upper house where the government doesn’t have a majority.

“Today’s threats from the premier should be beneath any political leader, but especially now when we are trying to pull together to recover from a pandemic,” he said in a statement.

“We will always stand with the 400,000 public sector workers who have kept us safe and maintained essential services.”

The Australian Medical Association in NSW slammed the proposed pay freeze as inappropriate given doctors in training have, in particular, borne the brunt of the pandemic.

“While they have not been laid off, they can’t work from home, they’ve had their education and hopes for career advancement paralysed by the crisis, and they’ve been taking care of some of the sickest people in the country,” President Dr Danielle McMullen said in a statement.

“They have also been placing themselves at increased risk of contracting COVID-19.”

The nurses union said the coalition was disingenuous to suggest it was grateful for the work done by nurses and midwives but refuse them a modest pay increase.

“They’ve been told they can have a pat on the back but (also) a slap in the face, and that is just so disappointing,” NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association general secretary Brett Holmes said.

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