The employee pharmacists’ union has highlighted that pay rates in discount pharmacies are lower than average, following its review of Chemist Warehouse’s submission to the King Review.
In its submission, the discount giant defended its employee pharmacists against perceptions that discounters offer inferior service.
“Some pharmacists have been with Chemist Warehouse since university, but many others have come from other retail pharmacies, others still from hospital, industry or even academia,” Chemist Warehouse’s submission reads in part.
“None of these pharmacists has ever been instructed to provide a diminished level of professional service or care when working in Chemist Warehouse.
“Teaching our pharmacists to provide a substandard service is not part of the Chemist Warehouse induction, on the contrary Chemist Warehouse prides itself on always providing the best in healthcare without compromise.
“The professional staff employed by Chemist Warehouse are openly and regularly encouraged to go above and beyond, to do more, never less.”
PPA says that it welcomes Chemist Warehouse’s defence of its employee pharmacists, but “it would be nice if it was backed up with better pay”.
“Apart from the fact that we are yet to find a pharmacy owner who encourages employees to do less, it appears that for Chemist Warehouse employees, doing more means you get less than the rest,” it says.
“PPA remuneration surveys consistently report that discounters – including Chemist Warehouse – pay around $5 less per hour than other pharmacy groups.”
It offers the below graph as supporting evidence.
PPA says it does not seek to have Chemist Warehouse reduce the quality of its services, but instead to improve its pay rates.
“Since 2012, the pharmacy chain has witnessed a massive 56% surge in prescription volumes. The number of pharmacies it controls has increased, and large numbers of patients continue to choose to get their scripts filled at their stores. Its success story has been written by an amazing team of employee pharmacists.
“Recent media reports have suggested that Chemist Warehouse is a target for international investors. Far from a struggling pharmacy business, it’s a chain that can afford to better recognise its employee pharmacists, create better working conditions, and fairer pay.
“Instead of getting defensive about its service model, we think it’s about time Chemist Warehouse management went ‘above and beyond’, better rewarding the pharmacists they employ would be a good start.”
The union’s Matt Harris told the AJP today that as workloads increase, patients may be put at risk.
Growing workloads “also act as a barrier to unlocking the talents and expertise of pharmacists if there are unhealthy expectations to fill script volumes which regularly flout the Pharmacy Board’s dispensing guidelines,” he warns.
“More time dispensing equals less time providing advice and support to patients and health consumers.
“We know for certain is that Chemist Warehouse is one of Australia’s most successful pharmacy groups, it ‘controls’ nearly 300 pharmacies and has an annual revenue of $2.7 billion.
“As a recipient of 6CPA funds, we should not forget that part of this success comes courtesy of the Australian taxpayer.”
The Australian taxpayer has a right to ensure that they get quality services for this investment, he says.
“If one of the stated aims of 6CPA is to promote and improve the quality use of medicines, Chemist Warehouse has a responsibility to take a lead on this.
“The information Chemist Warehouse pharmacists provide us is that high volume workloads make achieving this aim difficult.
“It’s up to Chemist Warehouse to explain why it pays its pharmacists less than the rest.
“For our part, we believe that low pay diminishes the profession, and makes it a less attractive destination for talented professionals who want to work in primary health.”