Thousands of NSW health workers are walking off the job as they call for a pay rise in an ongoing dispute with the government.
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 as inflation runs at 3.5 per cent.
The union is campaigning for a 5.5 per cent increase “to account for the impact of the pandemic and the surging cost of living”.
Hundreds of ambulance staff, security guards, cleaners, paramedics and other hospital workers packed Trades Hall in central Sydney on Thursday.
Tess Oxley, a paramedic from Campbelltown Hospital, told her colleagues that “2.5 per cent isn’t going to pay our bills”.
The strike is designed to put pressure on the government before a conciliation hearing at the Industrial Relations Commission next week.
“The government knows the cost of living is skyrocketing,” Nepean Hospital chief radiographer Andrew Teece told the crowd waving placards and flags.
“This government bluntly refuses a pay increase … to meet our household bill.
“We want better pay to support ourselves and our families.”
The planned industrial action includes stopping work for four hours at major metropolitan hospitals and two hours at regional hospitals.
Premier Dominic Perrottet said his government has done enough to assuage the financial strains facing health workers.
“The NSW government has led the way when it comes to wage increases across the country and this has been lost in the debate,” he said.
“A 2.5 per cent pay increase annually over this period of time has far exceeded private sector wage growth. That’s a fact.”
But health workers say they have not been honoured financially for their efforts as frontline staff at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re the ones who turned up to work and didn’t work from the safety of our own homes,” said Alana Fernandez, a patient transport worker from Prestons.
“We’re the ones who kept COVID out of hospitals.”
The stoppages follow similar actions by paramedics and nurses last week.