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Healthcare workers threaten more industrial action after turning down 3pc pay rise offer

Healthcare workers have been protesting in Sydney's CBD. (ABC News: Isaac Nowroozi)

Nurses and midwives in NSW have rejected the state government's offer of a 3 per cent pay rise.

The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association will consider further industrial action following a mass meeting of members in Sydney on Tuesday afternoon.

Nurses and midwives at 80 hospitals across NSW stopped work on Tuesday to attend the two-hour meeting at Sydney Town Hall, in which members discussed the state budget, pay and working conditions.  

The NSW government has offered a 3 per cent pay rise for public sector employees including nurses, teachers and paramedics.
Nurses and midwives across NSW participated in industrial action in March. (ABC News: Tim Swanston)

NSW Nurses and Midwives Association general secretary Brett Holmes said members had called for a 7 per cent pay increase in line with inflation. 

"[The] 3 per cent [pay rise] is inadequate," he said. 

"We'll consider what next industrial action is necessary to sustain the fight." 

Mr Holmes said a $3,000 "thank you" payment the state government offered for health workers as recognition for their work during the pandemic was not enough. 

"Once you take out your tax and your super … not that many of our members actually expect to see that $3,000," he said. 

Nurse Robyn Pavloudis protested in Sydney's CBD on Tuesday. (ABC News: Tim Swanston)

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the government would not consider offering a further pay rise on top of the 3 per cent it had already proposed.  

"The increase that is being given to nurses and midwives is the highest in the nation," Mr Hazzard said.   

"It's unfortunate that the state and all of the states can't always give nurses and midwives even more, but the 3 per cent is fair."

Warning for commuters

Earlier on Tuesday, commuters were urged to avoid travelling on the rail network as Sydney faces a week of chaos with industrial action across multiple public sectors.

Trains have been slowed to 60 kilometres per hour, and some services have been cancelled, as part of four days of industrial action by rail workers.

About 50 per cent of services will be reduced during peak periods on Tuesday, with further disruptions planned for the week.

Sydney Trains chief executive Matt Longland said commuters should avoid all rail travel.

"Leave it for those who really need it," he said. 

Authorities have been forced to reduce timetabled services to between 50 to 75 per cent. (ABC News: Tim Swanston)

Friday is expected to see the biggest disruption with a ban on using foreign-made trains set to reduce services by about 75 per cent. 

Premier Dominic Perrottet this morning said it was "disappointing" that the rail union had decided to take industrial action.

The action centres around safety concerns with the new intercity fleet, with the union arguing they are not fit for purpose.

"We have been arguing that this train is unsafe for the past four years," Rail, Tram and Bus Union secretary Alex Claassens said. 

Mr Perrottet said he had been told by the rail safety authority that the trains were safe and that he wanted them on the track "as quickly as possible".

"I believe the position of the union is unreasonable when you have the national safety regulator that has come out and said that those trains are safe," he said.

The NSW government has offered terms of new enterprise agreements for rail workers. 

That offer is being considered, but Mr Claassens said unless demands are met "the following week will get even nastier", he said. 

Teachers in 'crisis'

Most teachers from public and Catholic schools across NSW and some parts of the ACT will walk off the job for 24 hours on Thursday.

NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos has called on the government to do more to attract people to the sector.

"This crisis has been caused because of an industrial relations system and failed education policies which see teachers' salaries now uncompetitive when compared to other professions and a workload that is simply turning people away from teaching," Mr Gavrielatos said.

Members of both unions will rally in Macquarie Street in Sydney's CBD on Thursday, as well as in some regional locations across NSW and the ACT.

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