Nurses braved the cold on Tuesday morning to protest against the state government's wage freeze.
Members of the Nurses and Midwives Association were outside the Rusden Street office of Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall.
While the nurses said their wage freeze would hurt the community, Mr Marshall said rising unemployment was a greater predicament.
The secretary of the union's Armidale branch, Warren Isaac, said the wage freeze was an economic problem for the whole community.
"If every nurse misses out on $2000 each per year, that's a lot of money out of the rural economy. That's far better stimulus for this state than big building projects in Sydney," the mental health nurse said.
"It will just support a lot more people, plus nurses and frontline staff - police, ambulance - have been doing it really tough lately with covid, and on the background of the drought and fires, and I think we need a bit more respect.
"It's not a good time to kick nurses in the guts," he said.
It was a sentiment echoed by the local branch's president Jo Sillitoe.
"The money that we get, especially in rural areas, stays locally, and that's the most important thing," she said.
And it's not just nurses she said.
"Right down to the cleaners, everybody at the hospital this is going to affect.
"The fact that they've taken it off us at this time just isn't good enough."
Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the freeze on pay rises for MPs and last week extended it to the entire NSW public sector.
That includes almost 410,000 workers, in an attempt to save as much as $3 billion.
The Premier has said it is needed to avoid redundancies. The government's plan is to reinvest the funds into public projects that would create jobs as the state faces a growing unemployment queue.
Joining the Armidale protest, Labor councillor Debra O'Brien asked why was Mr Marshall condoning what she called the ravaging of wages in rural economies.
"It is certainly not for the benefit of the community but to support Liberal vanity projects delivered in Sydney with their $3 billion infrastructure projects."
She said it was a slap on the face for frontline health workers to be subjected to austerity measures during a pandemic when she said the government was meant to be providing a stimulus to the economy.
"There are some 1000 people employed by the public sector in Armidale - so that is about $2 million from the economy."
Mr Marshall was not in Armidale on Tuesday, as parliament was sitting, and he said he was pretty sure the Nurses and Midwives Association knew he would not be there.
"I'm disappointed I wasn't able to be in Armidale today - I'm required to be in Sydney for the resumption of Parliament," Mr Marshall told The Armidale Express.
"My door is always open, especially to our region's nurses, and I'm looking to forward to sitting down and having a chat with Warren and his team very soon.
"On an issue as important as this, I'm keen to hear all perspectives and views, from our hard-working public servants as well as the voices of those thousands of people in our region who have lost their jobs or had their hours cut back as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic."
Mr Marshall said they were entitled to have a voice and have someone speak up for them too.
"These are incredibly diffuclt times and while everyone is focssed on COVID-19 infection rates at the moment, pretty soon, when the JobKeeper and JobSeeker programs end in September, it will be unemployment rates that everyone will be most concerned with," he said.
"In April alone, more than 220,000 NSW workers lost their jobs and there'll be a a similar number of new unemployed from last month. I don't think people have yet fully comprehended the economic troubles we're in as a nation and region.
"We need to make every effort to get our economy back firing on all cyclinders to minimsie further job losses and get as many people back into the workforce as quickly as possible.
"A lot of public servants, myself included, are very lucky to have job security - but the vast majority of people in our region are not so fortunate and have had their lives turned upside down by COVID-19 - the full economic impact of which we haven't seen yet.
"Again, it's a bloody tough time and it'll probaly get a lot tougher before it gets better. We'll all have to put our shoulders to the wheel to get through this, just as they are in other states across Australia," he said.
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