NSW public sector pay rise 'diabolical'

Unions NSW's Mark Morey says a 0.3 per cent pay rise for public servants is a
Unions NSW's Mark Morey says a 0.3 per cent pay rise for public servants is a "kick in the guts".

Unions will consider legal and industrial action after a "diabolical and disgraceful" decision by the NSW Industrial Relations Commission to award a 0.3 per cent pay rise for public sector workers.

The commission made its decision on Thursday after hearing the NSW government's controversial bid to freeze public sector pay for 12 months.

The Berejiklian government wanted to halt pay rises to guarantee jobs for public servants amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and to free up funds for job-creation projects.

The wage policy was opposed by unions and frontline workers, including paramedics, nurses, police officers and teachers, who had sought an annual 2.5 per cent pay rise.

State parliament blocked the move in June when Labor and crossbench MPs united to pass a disallowance motion in the upper house, sending the police to the commission for consideration.

The commission on Thursday found public servants are entitled to maintain the real value of their earnings as is consistent with the government wages policy and a pay freeze would see a 0.3 per cent reduction in the real value of their earnings.

"The commission proposes to make awards and variations to avoid such a reduction, by awarding increases of 0.3 per cent," the commission ruled.

"We recognise that it will do little to alleviate the concerns of those witnesses and any like-minded co-workers who see the employers' position in these proceedings as failing to recognise, let alone reward, their efforts."

But the commission noted the government sector had been shielded from some of the significant employment-related consequences of COVID-19 that have hit other industries.

"There is no evidence that the pandemic has resulted in forced redundancies or other job losses in the government sector in NSW," the commission said.

The commission's decision supported the government's intention to prioritise job creation in a bid to reignite the economy, NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said.

"Our complete focus is on keeping people in jobs and creating jobs rather than giving pay-rises at this time.

"The best modelling and advice is that we will get more bang for buck through direct investment, not higher pay packets for public servants."

The decision was slammed by unions, with many describing it as disappointing and a slap in the face.

"Today is a kick in the guts for every public sector worker that got us through not only bushfires but COVID," Unions NSW secretary Mark Morey told reporters.

Unions will review the decision and consider legal and industrial options, Mr Morey added.

Public Service Association general secretary Stewart Little said the outcome affects workers who have stopped the pandemic from overwhelming hospitals, schools, prisons and the community.

"We see this decision as absolutely diabolical," he told reporters.

NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association general secretary Brett Holmes said it's a "disgraceful" outcome for nurses who have been putting their lives and their families at risk amid COVID-19.

NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos described the ruling as "nothing short of an insult".

State Labor and opposition leader Jodi McKay said she was "bitterly disappointed" by the commission outcome.

"I am thinking of 400,000 public sector employees who have been ripped off," she told reporters.

Australian Associated Press