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 NSW 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.
"No one wants to have the pay freezed, but we've got about half a million people who have lost their job in NSW so far, but no one's talking about that because everyone gets the JobKeeper and the JobSeeker (payments)," Mr Marshall said.
"Everyone's talking about (COVID-19) infection rates at the moment, but I reckon by September all we'll be talking about is unemployment rates."