NSW Premier’s ‘thank you’ cash bonus slashed by tax as nurses work overtime during COVID-19

New South Wales nurses say the tax office reclaimed much of their $3,000 pandemic ‘thank you’ payment after many were pushed into a higher tax bracket while working additional shifts during the latest wave of COVID-19.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrotet announced in June that public health 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 stretched an already stretched system to its limits during the pandemic.

But according to Diane Lang, NSW Nurses and Midwives Association delegate at Bega South East Regional Hospital, the promised $3,000 has since been halved for many staff.

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

Diane Lang says the thank you payment has been taxed significantly for some nurses.(ABC South East NSW: Adriane Reardon)

“For many nurses, working overtime and making sure the healthcare system doesn’t collapse during a surge of COVID and flu cases has put them in a higher tax bracket than usual” , Ms. Lang said.

“All those people who worked all those overtime shifts and all those overtime hours paid a lot of taxes.

“We knew we had to pay taxes, but we felt like they would be paid separately from our salary, so there are a lot of angry nurses at the moment.”

NSW Health has been contacted for comment.

Taxed for hard work

Genevieve Stone is the union branch secretary at Wollongong Hospital, where nurses were “heartbroken” after the full amount failed to land in their bank accounts.

“What we found was that the nurses who worked overtime during that pay period were the ones who were taxed the most and received the least money,” she said.

“The pandemic has been going on for a ridiculously long time, and I think we were all hoping for a morale boost from this payout.

“We were hoping to be more heard and appreciated, but that didn’t happen.”

The front of a building with a sign pointing to Wollongong Hospital
The union says those who worked the most were taxed the most and earned less.(ABC Illawarra: Tim Fernandez)

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

“We are still called martyrs and angels, but that overshadows the fact that we are highly skilled workers,” she said.

“We go to college, we have medical knowledge, we do manual labor and we deserve to be valued.

“We are bleeding nurses.”

a man wearing glasses standing behind a microphone
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet had planned to thank employees for their hard work during the pandemic.(ABC News)

Planned industrial action

A nurse for more than 40 years, Jill Telfer is union secretary at Tamworth Hospital.

She said that although some of the tax could be refunded in the next financial year, many nurses were still “very disappointed”.

“I haven’t been the biggest thank you I’ve ever received,” Ms Telfer said.

“What fell in our salary was $2,700 because we automatically had a super withdrawal and we were taxed as well, so I got around $1,700, but a lot got much less than that.

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

“We would prefer to be offered a fair pay raise.”

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

“I know good friends who got jobs elsewhere because they didn’t want to keep doing this,” she said.

“We were understaffed before COVID, but now it’s even worse and it just needs to be fixed.”

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