The pharmacists’ union says it will ‘fight for every cent’ in the current work value case, but the Guild maintains there has not been an increase in workload
This week AJP covered the Fair Work Commission decision that rejected raising the pharmacist award based on overall workload.
A claim had been made by the pharmacists’ union (PPA, formerly known as APESMA) for a rise in pharmacy award rates, arguing that there has been an increase in the skills, knowledge and responsibilities of pharmacists since their work value was last considered in 1998.
In a decision handed down on Friday, the Commission found that it was “not satisfied that there has been a fundamental change in the work of pharmacists since 1998, or in their skills or level of responsibility, in the way suggested by [PPA]”.
However it was satisfied that there has been some increase in the work value of pharmacists since 1998 in relation to provision of vaccinations and emergency contraception, higher numbers of S3 medicines and “a general increase in the level of responsibility and accountability of pharmacists”.
The Commission was also satisfied that there had been an increase in work value associated with the introduction of Home Medicine Reviews (HMRs) and Residential Medication Management Reviews (RMMRs) that justified a discrete adjustment to award remuneration in the form of an allowance.
Following an initial five-day hearing in May, the Commission has requested further submissions as to how its findings should be reflected in an adjustment to remuneration.
PPA labelled the decision by the Fair Work Commission to reject key aspects of their case as “proof the rules are broken for working people”.
“It seems incomprehensible that such well trained and critical health professionals can be paid less than $50,000 per annum,” said PPA President Geoff March.
“The model of discount pharmacies running the show in a race to the bottom on wages will continue until the Pharmacy Guild comes to a sector-wide agreement with workers through their union.”
The case hinges on the argument that pharmacists “work value” has increased over time with greater responsibilities, educational requirements and workload – with PPA arguing that pay has not kept up with change.
Jacki Baulch, PPA Industrial Officer, confirmed that the Commission’s concessions mean that pharmacists will have access to some increase in pay, but adds that “it won’t be in the order of what PPA sought and what we firmly believe pharmacists are worth”.
“If pharmacists can’t get a pay rise given the strength of this case, no one can under this system” said Chris Walton, CEO of Professionals Australia.
“The role of pharmacist in our health system has increased over the years to include health consultations, vaccinations and script management – particularly for older people and the rising population with chronic conditions.
“We’ll go back into the Commission and fight for every cent we can get pharmacists through this case, given the Commission have recognised some increase in work value,” said Mr Walton.
Meanwhile Dr March said pharmacists need to “take matters into their own hands”.
“The election is not far off and pharmacists should vote to change the rule,” said Mr March.
“If you need an argument for sector-wide bargaining, here it is.”
However the Pharmacy Guild maintained its original argument that changes to the work of pharmacists have been evolutionary in nature but have not resulted in a significant net addition to the work value requirements of a pharmacist, as claimed by the union.
“The Pharmacy Guild notes that the Fair Work Commission, in arriving at its decision in the work value case, has found that although the mix of work being performed and skills being exercised has changed since 1998, and some skills for which pharmacists have always been trained are not utilised in a more intense and systematised fashion, there has not been the fundamental change in the work of pharmacists since 1998 which would justify wage increases of the order claimed by [PPA],” it told AJP in a statement.
“The Guild acknowledges that the role of a pharmacist involves change, as health services, treatment methods, medical information, community expectations, technology and procedures change or are refined to better deliver health care services to the community.
“The Guild will be consulting with members before filing submissions to address the Commission’s questions,” it said.
“We are committed to working constructively with the Commission and relevant stakeholders in delivering an outcome that is in the interests of members and recognises the vital professional role of pharmacist staff.”