By ALLISON HORE
Businesses in Darlinghurst have shown their support for a campaign against the wage freeze for public sector workers. Representatives from the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWNMA) have been knocking on the doors of businesses around the St Vincent’s hospital to rally support for the campaign.
The NSW government’s proposed wage freeze will see more than 400,000 public sector employees, including hospital staff, forego their 2.5 per cent annual pay rise for a year. Damien Davis Frank, Assistant Secretary of the NSWNMA St Vincent’s Hospital Darlinghurst Branch, told City Hub that a wage freeze during the pandemic was “painful” for himself and his colleagues.
“It’s been quite painful to see the government declaring a wage freeze on public sector workers and especially at the moment during the coronavirus pandemic where you see all your colleagues working so hard and dealing with not seeing family and friends and isolating from their loved ones,” he said.
The decision to freeze wages of public sector workers would save the state $3 billion if it went ahead, money which the government can use to recover the billions spent on managing drought, bushfires, floods and now the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the cut would be good for the government’s bottom-line, it could cost the average NSW public servant more than $56,000 in income over the next 20 years according to Dr Andrew Charlton, Kevin Rudd’s former economic advisor.
The Darlinghurst businesses who have signed on in support of the campaign include Gelato Messina, Lil Darlin Bar, Sweethearts Cafe, Thai Tharee, and The Green Shop Organic. These businesses join many more across the state displaying posters in support of the nurses’ and midwives’ campaign against the wage freeze.
“We thought the best way to go about finding out what local businesses felt was by knocking on their doors and saying, what do you think,” he explains.
“Overwhelmingly we found that local businesses in our area said that the wage freeze was ridiculous and that they really respect the work that we’ve been doing. It’s encouraging to hear that from neighbouring businesses and people that live in our community.”
Damien says that the support of local businesses is meaningful because it “doesn’t match” what the government has been saying in terms of the freeze helping local businesses. He says, in his experience, businesses around St Vincent’s hospital have been supportive of the nurses’ campaign.
“It’s been really lovely just to walk around and chat to local businesses and to hear them say ‘thank you for working during the pandemic’”
“The local communities respect us and they think we’re doing a great job but the government is not showing their respect by taking away our minimum pay increase.”
The wage freeze was blocked in the NSW upper-house in the start of June, and the matter is currently being heard by the NSW Industrial Relations Commission. There has not yet been an announcement when the hearings are due to end, but NSWNMA general secretary Brett Holmes hopes it will be resolved by the end of the month.