Australia NSW Premier's 'thank you' cash bonus reduced by tax as nurses work overtime during COVID-19

15:43  09 august  2022
15:43  09 august  2022 Source:   abc.net.au

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New South Wales nurses say the tax office has claimed much of their $3,000 pandemic "thank you" payment after many were pushed into a higher tax bracket by working extra shifts during the latest COVID-19 wave.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrotet announced in June that public healthcare workers would receive the bonus to thank them for their increased workload due to COVID-19.

It came four months after thousands walked off the job to protest staffing levels that had pushed an already stretched system to its limit during the pandemic.

But according to Diane Lang, NSW Nurses and Midwives Association's delegate at Bega's South East Regional Hospital, the promised $3,000 had since been cut in half for many staff.

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She said the reduced payment came at a time when many nurses were doing overtime and extra shifts to cover staff shortages caused by the latest wave of infections.

"For many nurses, completing overtime and ensuring the health system did not collapse during a wave of COVID and influenza cases placed them in a higher tax bracket than usual," Ms Lang said.

"All those people who have done all those extra shifts and all that overtime have paid a lot of tax.

"We knew we had to pay tax, but we were under the impression it was going to be paid separate to our wages, so there's a lot of angry nurses out there at the moment."

NSW Health has been contacted for comment.

Taxed for hard work

Genevieve Stone is the secretary of the union's branch at Wollongong Hospital where nurses were "heartbroken" after the full amount failed to land in their bank accounts.

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"What we found is the nurses that worked overtime in that pay period were the ones who were taxed the most, and got the least amount of money," she said.

"The pandemic has been dragging on for a ridiculous amount of time, and I think we were all hoping for a morale boost in the way of this payment.

"We were hoping to be more heard and appreciated, but that hasn't happened."

Ms Stone said a pay rise in line with inflation would be "much more beneficial" to the workforce than a one-off payment, with both senior and junior staff leaving the profession in waves.

"We're always called martyrs and angels, but that overshadows that we are highly skilled workers," she said.

"We go to university, we've got medical knowledge, we do manual labour and we deserve to be valued.

"We are haemorrhaging nurses."

Industrial action planned

A nurse for more than 40 years, Jill Telfer is the secretary of the union's branch at Tamworth Hospital.

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She said that while some of the tax could be returned next financial year, many nurses were still "very disappointed".

"I wasn't the greatest thank you I've ever received," Ms Telfer said.

"What dropped into our pay was $2,700 as we had super taken out automatically and we were also taxed, so I received about $1,700, but many received much less than that.

"The payment was just like a pat on the head, because we are desperate to change our situation in our public hospitals.

"We would prefer we were offered a fair pay rise."

Ms Telfer said further industrial action was planned and many, including herself, were considering an early retirement.

"I know good friends who have got positions elsewhere because they didn't want to keep doing this," she said.

"We were short staffed before COVID, but now it's even worse and it's just got to be fixed."

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