At the exact time Shellharbour Hospital nurses were rallying against a planned public sector wage freeze on Wednesday, the NSW Premier was confirming that it would be enforced.
It was a "kick in the guts" for registered nurse, and NSW Nurses and Midwives Association delegate, Chevonne Cowell, and the small gathering who represented their many colleagues who've helped protect the community during COVID-19.
"The 2.5 per cent pay rise (which would have come into effect on July 1) was negotiated and agreed on before the pandemic," she said.
"It's our job is to turn up and care for people - yet we all feel like we've put our own safety, and that of our families, on the line during this pandemic. We've been flexible, we've undergone extensive training and upskilling to be prepared.
"And the appreciation from the community for health workers has been absolutely fantastic - yet the NSW Government doesn't seem to think we deserve a pay rise. It's a kick in the guts to be honest."
Labor's health spokesman, Keira MP Ryan Park, said the 12-month public sector wage freeze was devastating news for nurses and other essential workers.
"Labor does not support this attack on the wages of our nurses and midwives," he said.
"You won't find a clearer expression of the Berejiklian Government's twisted priorities. Gladys Berejiklian and Dominic Perrottet are planning a wage cut for our nurses who have served our community so well over the course of a global pandemic.
"This planned pay cut is not just a slap in the face for our local nurses, but will also be devastating for our economy. Now more than ever we need people spending locally. An effective wage cut to hundreds of thousands of workers will be devastating for business as well."
Shellharbour MP Anna Watson joined the midday rally, claiming she'd be fighting to see the decision overturned.
"Despite fearing for their own lives, and the lives of loved ones, nurses have fronted up every day to look after the community across NSW, and here we have a Premier saying 'We're not going to look after you'," she said.
"The government can applaud nurses - and other workers including police and teachers - but they also need to ensure they get the pay increases that were promised in an industrial agreement which they signed off on.
"It's one of the most treacherous acts I've seen handed out to workers."
Ms Cowell also hoped the government would reconsider: "As we prepare for a possible second wave of COVID-19, we're urging the Premier to rethink this wage freeze and show frontline healthcare workers the respect they deserve in these unprecedented times.
"Taking money out of the pockets of workers doesn't boost an economy. The NSWNMA will continue to fight this decision and members will not take this lying down."
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the move would protect public service jobs as unemployment spiked across NSW.
The "pause" in pay rises would save NSW taxpayers around $3 billion which the government would invest back into health and job creation.
"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," Ms Berejiklian said.
"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."
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said it was a tough decision, but one made for the "greater good" of the state and all residents.
"Nearly 90 per cent of NSW workers are in the private sector, and many of them have already suffered forced stand-downs, leave without pay, significant pay cuts, job uncertainty or losing their livelihoods altogether. The government needs its focus squarely on rebuilding the economy and regenerating jobs," he said.
"The RBA has forecast that the national unemployment rate will reach 10 per cent by the middle of the year, and the massive queues outside Centrelink show how hard it already is, so we will use every bit of fiscal firepower to get NSW working again.
"We have to do whatever it takes to make sure we do not end up with a group of long-term unemployed workers who were forced out of the workforce or young workers who never get a go.
"Pausing pay rises to save and create jobs is the right thing to do, and I think most people would agree on that - especially the people whose pay has actually gone backwards, or whose jobs are gone."