One-off bonus an 'insult' for NSW workers

The NSW government is hoping a $1000 bonus will help pass a public service pay freeze.
The NSW government is hoping a $1000 bonus will help pass a public service pay freeze.

The NSW government's proposal to give public servants a one-off $1000 stimulus payment if they agree to a 12-month pay freeze has been slammed by unions as insulting.

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has been talking with union bosses about the proposal which would see non-executive frontline staff such as nurses, police officers, paramedics and teachers receive a one-off payment in return for accepting a pay pause.

The state government wants to freeze the pay of all public servants due to the economic damage wrought by COVID-19 restrictions.

The move is estimated to save $3 billion which the coalition wants to reinvest in public projects.

The $1000 one-off payment would instead cost about $200 million with Mr Perrottet arguing it would leave the government with $2.8 billion to invest in job-creating projects.

"We are pausing pay rises for politicians and public servants so we can guarantee jobs for people who are in them and create tens of thousands more for those who have found themselves out of work," the treasurer said in a statement on Monday.

"I want to work with the unions to get a good outcome. Given the economic downturn, we want to ensure every dollar counts towards creating jobs and keeping people in work."

The proposed wage freeze for 410,000 public sector workers could be blocked in the upper house.

NSW Labor, the Greens and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party are expected to support a disallowance motion rejecting the regulation when it's put forward on Tuesday afternoon.

If the disallowance motion passes, the Berejiklian government flagged it will take the matter to the NSW Industrial Relations Commission.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned the payment would be off the table if that occurred, as would the promise of no forced redundancies.

"If the NSW parliament disallows the regulation that puts us in a very difficult position," the Liberal leader told reporters on Monday.

The premier admitted her government was asking a lot from people but, she insisted, the proposal was a fair way to deal with a difficult situation.

Frontline workers had received 2.5 per cent annual pay rises since the coalition took office in 2011, Ms Berejiklian reiterated.

The proposal has been slammed by public sector unions including the NSW Teachers Federation whose president, Angelo Gavrielatos, on Monday told reporters the bad policy added "insult to injury".

Unions NSW secretary Mark Morey says $1000 "short changes" the people who have been working hard throughout the bushfire crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.

He called on Mr Perrottet to confirm how long the pay freeze would be in place.

"Let's get fair dinkum here, if the treasurer has a proposal, a solid proposal - put it on the table," Mr Morey told reporters in Sydney.

"Don't play Mickey Mouse with people's jobs and their lives and their incomes."

The union leader said the treasurer should stop thinking about himself and instead focus on "ensuring that workers have money to spend to grow the economy".

The NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association described the $1000 payment as an attempt to silence nurses and midwives.

"It's an insult to the nurses," general secretary Brett Holmes told reporters.

"This is simply money to stop them from showing to the community the level of distress and anger they feel."

Australian Associated Press