Public sector unions have returned to the state's industrial umpire to fight a planned wage freeze for Dubbo's front-line health workers, among others.
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Delegates to the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association's annual conference, held online on Thursday, have also called for the pay rise pause to be scrapped.
Dubbo MP Dugald Saunders rejected suggestions it was a pay cut, and said while freezing wages was "not ideal", given the COVID-19 pandemic it was "unfortunately something that is necessary".
Association members at Dubbo and across the state have been campaigning for the past 10 weeks.
"Nurses and midwives' conversations with local businesses on how a wage freeze would hurt them have resonated, especially in rural and regional communities recovering from drought and the bushfires," general secretary Brett Holmes said.
"Numerous economists have implored the government not to proceed with a public sector wage freeze.
"Even the Treasury conceded that reducing public sector wage growth would deepen the recession."
Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania had committed to wage increases this year onwards, and Queensland had promised two increases next year, the association reports.
Mr Saunders said: "Obviously freezing wages within the public sector isn't ideal, but given the circumstances we find ourselves in with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is unfortunately something that is necessary."
"It is important to note that despite what Labor and the minor parties might try to portray, this isn't a pay cut and no worker in the NSW public sector will have less money going into their bank account each week," he said.
"The pausing of pay rises for one year is actually designed to allow the government to protect the jobs of the 410,000 public service workers across the state, while at the same time investing in projects and supporting the hundreds of thousands of people in the private sector who have lost their jobs or are worried about job security."
The nurses' association was to reappear in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission on Friday alongside other public sector unions to oppose the wage freeze.
Further hearings are scheduled for July 30 and 31.
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