In an attempt to soften the blow of a pay freeze, the New South Wales (NSW) government is offering a $1,000 one-off payment for frontline workers and a guarantee that no public sector workers will be made redundant in the next 12 months.
The proposed legislation is an effort to use the $3 billion savings that the pay freeze will generate to create new jobs to benefit the state more broadly after it was hit hard by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.
The $1,000 stimulus payment will cost $200 million, and the remaining $2.8 billion will be available for “shovel-ready” projects across the state.
However, unions and the opposition Labor Party are objecting to the proposal, accusing the government of mistreating frontline workers, such as nurses.
Speaking to 2GB radio in the morning before Parliament was due to vote on the matter, NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet urged the upper house and crossbenchers to consider the economic position that the NSW government is in.
Perrottet said: “The unions are doing their job. Their job … is to represent their members but our job as a government is to represent all $8 million people right across our state.”
Perrottet told 2GB that about 200,000 people had lost their jobs in NSW last month alone.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said while the decision was difficult, it was the fairest one for the people of NSW.
“Whilst we are recovering from the health consequences of the pandemic we have yet to come to terms with the economic shock. Job security is essential on our path to recovery,” Berejiklian said in a media release on May 27.
“The only way NSW will come out of this crisis in a strong position is if we all make sacrifices, and that’s what we’re asking our own workforce to do because we are all in this together.”
Berejiklian also warned that if Labor and the crossbench reject the proposal in Parliament the government will be left in a “difficult” position.
“We won’t be in a position to be able to guarantee the jobs, we won’t be in a position to be able to guarantee the $1000,” she said.
NSW has half a million people out of work in the wake of the CCP virus pandemic, which is about 30 percent of the entire country’s unemployment total. The proposed pay freezes will affect about 410,000 people.
NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge strongly opposes the proposal to freeze pay increases.
“Working people shouldn’t have to pay for COVID-19,” he said.
Berejiklian admitted her government is asking a lot of people but believes the proposal was a fair way to deal with a difficult situation.