New South Wales nurses say that 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 wave of COVID 19.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrotet announced in June that public healthcare workers would receive a bonus to thank them for their increased workload due to COVID - 19.
It came four months after thousands of people walked off the job to protest staffing levels that had pushed an already stretched system to its limit during the epidemic.
Diane Lang, NSW Nurses and Midwives Association spokesman at Bega's South East Regional Hospital, said the promised $3,000 had been cut in half for many staff.
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.
Nurses completed overtime to make sure 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.
We knew that we had to pay tax, but we were under the impression that it would be paid separate to our wages, so there are a lot of angry nurses out there at the moment. NSW Health has been contacted for comment.
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.
The pandemic has been dragging on for a long time, and I think we were hoping for a moral boost in the way of this payment.
We were hoping to be heard and appreciated, but that hasn't happened. Ms Stone said that a pay rise in line with inflation would be more beneficial to the workforce than a one-off payment, with both senior and junior staff leaving the profession in waves.
She said that we are highly skilled workers because we're always called martyrs and angels.
We go to university, we have medical knowledge, we do manual labour and we deserve to be valued.
Jill Telfer, a nurse for more than 40 years, is the secretary of the union's branch at Tamworth Hospital.
Ms Telfer said that while some of the tax could be returned next year, many nurses were still very disappointed I wasn't the greatest thank you I've ever received.
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 to be offered a fair pay rise. Ms Telfer said further industrial action was planned and many, including herself, were considering early retirement.
She said good friends who have had positions elsewhere because they didn't want to keep doing this.
We were short staffed before COVID, but now it's just needs to be fixed.