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‘Slap in the face’: Public sector pay cuts anger unions

Unions say wage freeze is a 'slap in the face'. Source: Getty

Public sector wage freezes in New South Wales have angered teachers, who say it’s a “slap in the face” after their efforts to continue working during the coronavirus pandemic.

Around 400,000 public sector workers are touted to be impacted by the NSW government’s decision to freeze wages in a bid to save $3 billion, including the pay of those on the frontlines during the pandemic.

“Whether this decision impacts today or in 12 month’s time, it still amounts to a pay cut and will be resisted by our members,” NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos said.

“This is hardly the recognition teachers and principals deserve after the extraordinary efforts they have made to maintain educational continuity for our students during these unprecedented times.”

Gavrielatos said the pay cuts would cost teachers thousands of dollars in wages in the short term, and tens of thousands more in the longer term through the impact on superannuation savings. 

“And, a day after the Prime Minister waxed lyrical about skills crucial for our future productivity and prosperity, TAFE teachers,who have not received a pay increase since November 2018, have also been rewarded with a pay cut,” Gavrielatos said.

“Who do our politicians think is responsible for skills training?”

Earlier this month, frontline nurses and midwives also criticised the government’s decision to freeze wages.

"On the eve of International Nurses' Day, the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association has attacked plans by the NSW Government to ram through legislation for a public sector wage freeze, as early as tomorrow (Tuesday) when parliament resumes for special sessions," State Nurses and Midwives' Association general secretary Brett Holme said.

"The middle of a pandemic is hardly the time to be asking frontline nurses and midwives to suck it up, show up for their shifts and do even more for less."

Even economists believe the move to freeze wages could be “destructive” for Australia’s economy.

“Scapegoating public sector wages would be a mistake economically, not just politically,” the economists Troy Hendersen and Jim Stanford stated. 

“Freezing or cutting public sector wages would substantially exacerbate the dangerous deflationary risk we already face.”

The decision still hinges on the support of the NSW upper house,

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