(4 Nov) Gladys Berejiklian has warned the government is more generous that the Industrial Relations Commission, as the upper house prepares to vote down a move to cap public sector wage rises at 1.5 per cent.
Labor and the Greens have declared they will reject the proposal for the minimal wage increase for the state’s 400,000 public servants in the November 17 budget.
The NSW premier says it will save taxpayers $1.8 billion over three years, and dissenters should remember what happened last time they rejected the government’s offer.
“The upper house of the NSW parliament let down workers last time, because workers would have been better off if they accepted the government’s position,” she said on Wednesday.
After hearing the NSW government’s controversial bid to freeze public sector pay for 12 months in October, the commission awarded a 0.3 per cent pay rise to public servants instead of the 2.5 per cent they’d been seeking.
The Berejiklian government wanted to halt pay rises to guarantee public sector jobs amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and to free up funds for job-creation projects.
While trying to push the freeze through the Legislative Council earlier this year, it offered to guarantee no forced redundancies, a $1000 bonus for frontline workers and a return to a 2.5 per cent wage increase the following year.
The offer was rejected and Ms Berejiklian says it’s a cautionary tale.
“I just caution them against doing that (again) because the Industrial Relations Commission may not be as generous as the government.”
Labor and the Greens have blasted the government for proposing to trim back wage increases for nurses, paramedics and police officers under pressure during a pandemic.
Opposition Leader Jodi McKay said it was economic vandalism and an act of betrayal, while Greens MLC David Shoebridge said it was an ugly attack on frontline workers.
“This is a slap in the face to the people we have turned to during this pandemic, to teach our kids, look after the sick, and kept us safe and supported,” he said on Tuesday.
A tiered wage cap, legislating higher increases for frontline workers, had been considered but was to difficult to implement, Ms Berejiklian said.
“It’s very difficult to distinguish between what’s determined frontline and what’s not,” she said.
Ms Berejiklian said all workers were struggling and in the context of a recession, the offer was fair.
“I just ask everybody not to use politics as a weapon during these times, but to think of the workers.”
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