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Premier rejects nurses’ push for major pay increase

NSW says it can’t afford to give nurses and midwives the 15 per cent pay bump they are asking for as another union rejects the government’s initial public-sector wage offer.

After the police union stood by its ask of a 25 per cent bump across four years, the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association is maintaining its demand of a 15 per cent, one-year raise.

The NSW government offered a 10.5 per cent rise over three years for all public-sector employees on Monday, expected to cost about $3.6 billion.

Nurses reluctantly accepted a four per cent increase last August despite asking for 10 per cent and immediately foreshadowed they would want a substantial bump when back at the negotiating table.

NSW Nurses and Midwives Association general secretary Shaye Candish was unsurprised by the government’s position and called on it to recognize the “incredible worth” of its members.

NSW Premier Chris Minns says he is committed to negotiating with unions over pay-rise demands. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

Premier Chris Minns insisted negotiations would kick off in time, but said the 15 per cent ask was “beyond our resources.”

He said that increase would be more than three times what Queensland nurses got in a deal struck last December, which included a four per cent raise in the first year.

“Do nurses and midwives deserve a pay raise? The answer is yes. Is the government committed to sitting down with the union? Absolutely,” he told reporters.

“But I have to be honest, 15 per cent in a single year is more than we can afford right now.”

Queensland’s pay deal prompted suggestions NSW’s nurses could be tempted by a move to the sunshine state for financial security.

Ms Candish said the 15 per cent ask took into account “years of neglect and wage suppression”.

“Successive Liberal governments have got us into this mess, by underfunding and underpaying nurses for decades… it’s now up to the Labor government to fix this and pay nurses and midwives properly,” she told AAP.​

“If the government is serious about attracting and retaining nurses and midwives in the NSW public health system, it must pay them a wage that is attractive and competitive with other states like Queensland.”

NSW is overhauling hospitals with the “safe-staffing levels” program, with minimum standards imposed on the nurse-to-patient ratio designed to lift the standard of care.

While it means more staff are needed despite a global healthcare shortage, NSW Ryan Park said it acted as a “retention and recruitment” strategy for the state.

“Thousands more extra nurses and midwives are going to be in the system … this takes time, this is going to be a challenge (but) it’s a challenge faced by every health service across the globe,” he said.

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