This year’s Pharmacy Barometer has indicated a slight upward trend in pharmacist wages, says UTS Head of Health—but the majority indicate no change

UTS Pharmacy has released its 2017 UTS Pharmacy Barometer, which aims to explore the latest opportunities and challenges in community pharmacy for 2017.

While the optimism and confidence score among pharmacists for 2017 was the highest yet—at 96.4 out of 200—a general air of pessimism and discontent continues to surround employee pharmacists when it comes to wages.

According to the Barometer, pharmacist pay rose across slightly the board in the last year.

There was a greater proportion of employers moving from $30-$40 per hour pay category (74% in 2016 to 63% in 2017) to $40-$50 (20% in 2016 to 27% in 2017).

Those receiving less than $30 an hour decreased from 6% to 5%.

The group receiving between $50 and $60 per hour rose from 2% to 3%, while those earning more than $60 per hour rose from 0% to 1%.

More than 90% of employee pharmacists are earning between $30 and $50 an hour, and this finding was consistent across all pharmacy types.

Overall, “there appears to be a slight upward trend in wages but for the majority no change has occurred”, says Head of the UTS Graduate School of Health and Professor of Pharmacy Practice, Shalom (Charlie) Benrimoj.

Professor Benrimoj suggests the stagnation of wage levels is negatively affecting the views of pharmacists.

“To me, that seems to be the case,” he said at the Barometer launch.

“If you’ve got a business and it’s going backwards, you’ve got to adjust the levels.

“But did we adjust them too far?”

Professor Benrimoj called on owners doing well to improve their wages.

“We can see wages slowly creeping up.

“If your businesses are doing better then you’ve got to share. But that’s not happening,” he says, pointing to the vast majority of pharmacists that have seen no change in their remuneration.

Warwick Plunkett, PSA director and member of the Barometer Expert Panel, says “urgent redress remains a priority” in order to retain top minds in the profession.

“[It is] pleasing to see a slight upward movement in wages but the levels still remain too low to attract the best and brightest to staying in the profession,” says Mr Plunkett.

Professor Benrimoj agrees.

“The top students are going into hospital pharmacy and that’s pretty much across every school,” he says.

This assertion is bolstered by the results of NAPSA’s latest student survey, released last week, which reveal a rise in student interest in the hospital pharmacy sector.

“If community pharmacy wants to keep those top students they need to change something,” says Professor Benrimoj.

“If you’re paying peanuts you’re going to get monkeys.

“Owners need to start shifting these salaries or we’re going to get poor people coming into the industry. 

“And for professional services you need quality.”

Meanwhile the pharmacist union continues its latest campaign which reads: “Stop paying pharmacists peanuts, we’re not script monkeys”.

The campaign by Professional Pharmacists Australia is calling for a 30% increase in employee pharmacist wages, and the organisation currently has a case before the Fair Work Commission.

Remuneration was also brought up in the NAPSA survey, with 63% respondents saying they do not believe there is adequate remuneration for the services pharmacists offer, and that this remains the biggest issue facing the profession.

And the PSA recently found the same results among its early career pharmacist membership base, with ECPs identifying inadequate remuneration was the single largest issue facing the sector.