Nurses were all due to celebrate International Nurses Day this week. Instead they have been "slapped in the face" by the NSW government, which is proposing to deny the frontline health workers their annual pay rise.
Nurses and midwives say the middle of the coronavirus pandemic is hardly the time for the NSW government to freeze public sector wages, especially with a "second wave" of cases imminent.
NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWNMA) general secretary Brett Holmes said nurses were devastated frontline health and other public sector workers face a wage freeze, despite the NSW Treasurer claiming to "always put people before numbers".
"It's no surprise our members are upset the government intends to bring on this wage freeze, instead of honouring a modest 2.5 per cent pay increase from July 1," said Mr Holmes.
"While risking their lives to protect our community during the coronavirus pandemic, it's abhorrent to be asking frontline nurses to do more for less."
NSWNMA South East Regional Hospital delegate Diane Lang said she felt "degraded and insulted" by the decision.
"In early April we were lauded as amazing nurses. In fact, they saw us so essential to their COVID-19 plans the government was paying for accommodation if required to keep us safe," she said.
"Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said, 'the last thing the brave men and women in our health system should have to worry about is that their jobs will result in their loved ones being exposed to this virus. As was the case during the bushfires our health system will have all the resources it needs so our frontline health workers can save lives and look after themselves'.
"To save lives and look after ourselves, absolutely this is our goal. We all want to come home to our family healthy," Ms Lang said.
"However, this is what we do every day - we save lives, virus or no virus, often in difficult working conditions understaffed and undervalued.
"For years we have asked for improved working conditions to no avail. For years the government has said you get nothing but a 2.5 per cent increase, take it or leave it."
But now even that increase is under threat.
"Sorry Premier Berejiklian and Health Minister Hazzard, nurses deserve better," Ms Lang said.