‘Will escalate:’ Union boss’ threat to Minns

Chris Minns Gerard Hayes
NSW Premier Chris Minns is locked in a dispute with a powerful union. Picture: NewsWire

NSW paramedics and public healthcare workers will be calling for a 6.5 per cent pay rise, with one of the state’s biggest unions threatening more industrial action, including strikes, if union demands are not met.

Tensions between the Health Services Union and the state government have continued to mount, with NSW secretary Gerard Hayes flagging further stop-work action at Liverpool Hospital next week.

HSU members like nurses, radiographers, paramedics, security and cleaning staff are set to work off the job at one of Sydney’s largest hospitals.

“This will escalate consistently until we get to where we need to be,” Mr Hayes said.

“When I speak to people saying as a husband and wife, they have to move back to their parents’ place because they can’t afford to live as a family, something has got to give.

“Industrial actions will continue and it will not stop.”

Paramedics and patient transport officers began a 24-hour ban on discharges from Thursday 6am, affecting patients scheduled to be transferred to residential and aged-care facilities. Discharges were, however, continued for those receiving end-of-life care and dialysis.

NSW Premier, Chris Minns
NSW Premier Chris Minns maintained negotiations with unions would end in a positive result. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Nikki Short

HSU’s six demands to ‘de-escalate’ dispute

Mr Hayes has also written to Premier Chris Minns, outline six demands to “de-escalate” the dispute.

Seen by NCA NewsWire, the demands include removing the public sector wages cap plus a one-time 6 per cent pay increase and a 0.5 per cent bump to superannuation from July 1, 2023.

This will coincide with the expiration of current awards on June 30.

The HSU also called for reform to how awards and salary packaging rates are structured, plus a NSW royal commission into healthcare funding that Mr Hayes says will identify savings that could pay for the union’s demands.

Although Mr Hayes says some progress has been made in regards to establishing a royal commission, there has been “no movement” in wage negotiations.

“He’s sidelined all the HSU members, there’s no doubt about that,” Mr Hayes said.

“People who have been at the coalface, people who’ve worked incredibly hard and the paramedics that he came and saw.

“The health sector as I‘m sure you’re aware over the past four years has changed dramatically.”

However, Mr Minns remained confident his government would make “headway” in union negotiations. While he couldn’t confirm when legislation would be introduced to scrap the wages cap, he said negotiations were important to ensure a “productivity-based wages system” that protected the “NSW taxpayers’ budget”.

“At the end of the day, no one wants industrial action, least of all me,” he said.

“We’re still committed to that ultimate aim. It’s going to be rocky at different points but we’ll get there.”

Opposition Leader Mark Speakman called for more transparency on how the Premier would scrap the public sector wages cap.

“Mr Minns needs to come clean. He needs to explain to the people of NSW what negotiations he’s going to undertake with the unions and how he’s going to pay for it,” he said.

Opposition health spokesman Matt Kean said Mr Minns had created a “real crisis entirely of his own making”.

“We don’t support the strike today; however, we understand the frustration of frontline health workers who were promised one thing by Chris Minns and are getting something completely different.”