They've been on the front line of the struggle against COVID-19 all year and after being offered a 0.3 per cent pay rise, Shellharbour nurses and midwives vented their anger yesterday.
They staged a rally at the hospital to tell the NSW Government they wouldn't accept the 0.3 per cent rise decided upon by the Industrial Relations Commission two weeks ago - not after this annus horribilis.
NSW Nurses and Midwives Association delegate Chevonne Cowell, a nurse educator at Shellharbour, said they deserved better.
"They were initially very disappointed that the announcement was a 0.3 per cent pay rise, rather than the agreed 2.5 per cent," she said.
"Now they're starting to get a fire in their belly, and are really quite upset about it. That was the purpose of our rally today, to get it out there and have it known that we're not just going to stand by and let this happen.
"I feel like we've really met the challenge, in terms of a profession, to make sure we're really stepping up - we did a bunch of training, turned up to work every day putting our safety on the line, and our family's safety.
"It's been really tough. The workload has been ginormous. Things were changing on a day-to-day basis. It was actually really quite scary - we were getting news from international saying things you did yesterday were [superseded]. You're worrying about if I was protected yesterday. It was really difficult, working in an unpredictable environment with a deadly disease no less."
"To have a wage freeze initially was super insulting - but the 0.3 per cent is hardly any better. It's just an insulting outcome.
The lowball offer came despite public servants having agreed to deals with 2.5 per cent annual rise - this included police, teachers and other "front line" workers.
Government lawyers had earlier argued in the IRC that a pay rise of 2.5 per cent was open to the commission - but a lower figure was possible too.
In response, NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the money was needed to help create jobs.
"We need to invest every dollar we can in job creating initiatives and projects to help the more than 280,000 people in NSW who find themselves without a job," he said in a statement re-issued from last week.
"Earlier this month the full Bench of the Industrial Relations Commission of NSW supported the Government's plan to prioritise job-creation to help support those who have had their jobs ripped from them during this pandemic.
"The Government's focus is on maintaining our first-class health response while providing as much support as possible to keep people in jobs as we get our economy back on its feet."
We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.