Striking public service workers have rallied outside NSW parliament to vent their displeasure over the government’s proposed pay rise, amid calls for the state’s wages cap to be scrapped.
Public Service Association (PSA) members ranging from prison officers, park rangers, school support staff, ServiceNSW workers and civilian police employees went on strike on Wednesday.
The workers marched up Macquarie St in Sydney, but the crowd did not match the size of recent strikes by teachers and nurses.
Other demonstrations were held across the state in Bathurst, Dubbo, Grafton, Newcastle, Tamworth and Wagga Wagga.
Premier Dominic Perrottet on Monday announced a 2.5 per cent annual cap on public sector wage rises would be increased to three per cent next financial year, with an additional 3.5 per cent the following year, depending on productivity gains.
But PSA senior vice president Juliette Sizer told members a fair pay rise “starts at 5.2 per cent”, 0.1 per cent above inflation.
Unions have called for the wages cap to be raised further to at least reflect the rate of inflation, while some want it abolished altogether.
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party leader Robert Borsak introduced a bill to the upper house on Wednesday to repeal the cap.
Mr Borsak said the policy entrenched low pay for public sector workers, and helped depress wages more broadly by setting an unofficial standard for the private sector.
Labor upper house MP Adam Searle said workers would effectively get a pay cut because the wage cap had not been lifted above the current level of inflation.
“It’s time to scrap the wages cap in NSW,” he said.
Mr Perrottet dismissed the strike as politically motivated.
“Our public servants have just received the biggest public sector pay increase anywhere in the nation,” the premier said.
The wage rise was fair and responsible within the confines of the June 21 budget, he added.
“It’s not just the public servants that are going through a challenging time, it’s every person across NSW after coming through the pandemic,” Mr Perrottet said.
PSA general secretary Stewart Little said a pay rise for public servants would benefit the broader economy.
“He’s in charge of the largest workforce in the country … no one more than Mr Perrottet can do something about addressing wages,” he said.
“We had a decade of wage restraint.”
The government on Monday also announced frontline health staff would receive a $3000 bonus in recognition of their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Little backed the bonus for health workers, but questioned why it should be limited to them.
Teachers, prison officers and emergency service workers should also get the payment, he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Perrottet confirmed part-time and casual health workers would get the $3000 payment, after concerns were raised by the union.
A NSW government spokesman told AAP health ministry staff, including epidemiologists, contact tracers and other support staff, will also receive the bonus.