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Thousands of WA public sector workers rally at parliament, demanding better pay

Workers turned out in droves, despite inclement weather, to call for better pay.  (ABC News: Keane Bourke)

Thousands of WA health workers, police, teachers and other public sector workers have staged an angry protest at parliament, arguing they aren't being respected or paid enough.

Six weeks of escalating industrial action culminated at the doorstep of Parliament House in Perth, as public sector workers denounced the state government's wages policy.

Many of WA's biggest unions joined together to form the Public Sector Alliance last year in a bid to strengthen their bargaining power against WA's wages policy.

The alliance includes unions covering workers across dozens of industries, including health care, prisons, manufacturing, and tourism.

'What do we want? 5 per cent'

WA's public sector wages policy was initially a 2.5 per cent pay rise per year, with the choice of a $1,000 sign on bonus or an extra 0.25 per cent annually for two years.

Amid escalating industrial action over the past month, the state government budged on its policy. 

"I understand the issues. That's why we're providing a very generous offer to the public sector workforce," Premier Mark McGowan said.

"The public sector wage offer we are offering is in excess of what is being offered in other states – New South Wales and Victoria – and also, I suspect, in excess of what many people across the private sector workforce are receiving."

The revised offer is a 3 per cent annual rise for two years, plus a $2,500 one-off payment.

"We listened intently to what [the unions] had to say, and what we're trying to do is provide everyone across the public sector with a major pay increase," Mr McGowan said.

But the union members gathered outside Parliament today to say it's not enough, and chanted for a 5 per cent annual pay rise.

More than a thousand workers are rallying over the government's wages offer at parliament house. (ABC News: Keane Bourke)

'Money for everything, except workers'

In a speech on the steps of parliament, Unions WA Secretary Owen Whittle said workers deserved more.

"We can't pay the bills with thanks or a pat on the back, we deserve a real pay rise," he said.

"We are living in the most wealthy state in the country… we are seeing budget surplus after budget surplus from the state government.

"There is money for everything, except for the workers who keep our state running and our community safe."

Owen Whittle addresses the crowd at the rally.  (ABC News: James Carmody)

Julie-Marie Hay has worked as an enrolled nurse for 20 years.

She works at Royal Perth Hospital and said the system is barely staying afloat.

"Currently in the hospitals we are struggling to survive just because we don't have staff," she said.

Nurse Julie-Marie Hay wants the state government to show health workers some 'respect'. (ABC News: Cason Ho)

"If they want to be able to keep us motivated so we actually have the resources to be there for you, then they need to respect us."

Ms Hay said a five per cent rise doesn't cover the rising cost of living.

"What we're asking for with this, is the bare bloody minimum."

Minister heckled, jeered

WA's Industrial Relations Minister, Bill Johnston, was invited to the podium to speak on behalf of the state government.

Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston was booed and heckled as he addressed the crowd. (ABC News: James Carmody)

"We are listening, we are listening to you and your unions, we understand that our offer is not what you want, but it's what we believe we can afford," Mr Johnston said.

His comments were cut off as the crowd of public sector workers yelled and booed in disagreement, but Mr Johnston attempted to continue his speech.

"In the end, all the industrial disputes finish, and I want to make it clear that regardless of what happens during the dispute, the McGowan Labor Government recognises and respects the work that you do," he said.

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