Higher wages, not penalty rates, need to be the focus of the pay debate, says the owner of an Amcal pharmacy targeted last week
Last week, Labor member for McEwen Rob Mitchell criticised the pharmacy sector over penalty rates, particularly Amcal.
“At our local Amcal Pharmacy in Craigieburn, pharmacists are fighting for their fair share in wages,” Mr Mitchell told Parliament.
But Sam El-Ahmad, proprietor of the pharmacy in question, told the AJP the reality is that “we pay our staff well and truly above the award and haven’t passed on any of the pay cuts”.
“We pay above award because we have very experienced pharmacists working for us,” he said. “We’re a Supercare pharmacy – it was one of the pilot pharmacies and went through a very rigorous process.
“We’re a service-based model, we’re not interested in just dispensing medicines.
“If it was feasible for me, my pharmacists would be the highest paid health professionals.”
His employee pharmacists are happy with their working conditions and have complained about their wages, Mr El-Ahmad says.
He says he bears no ill will at all towards Mr Mitchell, however, as the politician was “likely misinformed by the PPA”.
“It looks like the PPA have embarrassed a sitting member of Parliament by providing him with misleading information,” he says.
Originally, PPA had planned a protest outside the Craigieburn pharmacy, but this was called off after Mr El-Ahmad responded to the union’s demand that he clarify whether he would pass on the penalty rates cuts. PPA sent such letters to Amcal pharmacies around the country. However the union still made contact with Mr Mitchell’s office.
Mr Mitchell told the AJP that “it is great to see that some store owners such as we’ve seen here in Craigieburn have iistened to their staff… and pledged not to pass on these cuts to staff.”
However, he also said that “the Turnbull Government’s attack on working families is never more clear than in their support of these cuts.
“They just don’t get how much people out there rely on, have budgeted on, those Sunday wages in order to get food on the table, supplies for the kids, to pay for uni.
“We keep trying to get this Government to understand that if you take money out of the pockets of working people, we create financial stress in homes across the country and we grind our economy to a crawl.”
Mr El-Ahmad agrees that pay is a significant issue for pharmacists, but that he strongly supports a base wage increase instead.
“I would find that most pharmacy owners would be pleased to have the award rate increased as opposed to targeting penalty rates,” he says. “I’m a proprietor, but I’m also a pharmacist, and I would like to see pharmacists’ extensive education and value to the community be rewarded with a higher wage.”
This would help restore faith in the future of the profession among young and early career pharmacists, as well as prospective pharmacists.
“PPA should stop attacking pharmacies that support better pay conditions for pharmacists,” he says.