emergency services personnel

Is this the solution to our emergency services crisis? Inside the NSW government’s new public sector pay deal

The current shortage of emergency service workers in New South Wales (NSW) is real. NSW emergency services, including police, firefighters, and nurses, are currently seeking an improved pay deal in the state. It’s hoped a pay increase would make emergency services a much more enticing career prospect.

With thanks to the ABC, Sydney Morning Herald, and The Daily Telegraph, we explore the current situation and its impact on the state’s emergency services.

What is the state of play?

The NSW Government is currently offering a pay rise to public sector workers in the state. The government’s proposal includes a three-year wage deal increase of 10.5 per cent. Under the deal, workers would receive a 4 per cent pay rise in the first year, 3.5 per cent in the second, and 3 per cent in the third. They would also see increases to their superannuation and a $1500 cost-of-living bonus if inflation exceeds 4.5 per cent.

The new pay deal would apply to workers whose industrial agreements are due for renewal, including police, nurses, allied health workers, firefighters, and prison guards.

However, the current proposal is well below union demands and is, therefore, unlikely to be accepted.

The Police Association is seeking a 25 per cent raise over four years.

Meanwhile, the Fire Brigade Employees Union is currently seeking a 20 per cent pay rise over three years.

The Nurses and Midwives Association wants a 15 per cent wage rise this year.

The government says it will consider improving its offer in exchange for productivity reforms.

What impact are current circumstances having on emergency services?

Many are concerned the rise won’t be enough to retain and attract essential workers to NSW.

A further increase is hoped to address the skills shortages currently facing emergency services in NSW.

Of great concern is a significant shortage of police officers currently being experienced in NSW.. Many of Sydney’s Local Area Commmands (LAC) are operating at reduced capacity. For example, the Sydney City LAC is only operating at 69 per cent of its capacity. The Cumberland and Eastern Suburbs LACs are both short of at least 50 officers.  Across the New South Wales police force, there are currently more than 1500 vacancies.

Shortages are causing existing police to burn out, further exacerbating the problem.

The NSW Police Association Kevin Morton said he has never seen such severe staffing shortages in his 34 years in the police force.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Morton said the staffing shortages were affecting the police’s ability to perform their roles.

“There’s certainly a lot of commands across the state that have had to look at the allocation of staff – and some units within those commands have closed down, to redivert those resources back on the front line, on calls for assistance,” he said.

A 60% drop in random breath tests conducted in NSW between 2019 and 2023 was blamed on a shortage of police officers.

According to senior police sources, the problem is only increasing. Therefore, any solutions, such as improved pay and conditions, are welcomed.

What is the government’s argument?

The government says this offer is higher than those made in other states and will deliver wage growth that exceeds projected cost-of-living increases over the next three years. It says the new deal provides certainty to many essential services workers.

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