The Fair Work Ombudsman has confirmed it is looking into employee wages within the CWH network
The popular discount pharmacy chain is again facing questions about its payment practices.
Fairfax revealed this week that Chemist Warehouse is being investigated by the Fair Work Ombudsman for potential underpayment of its employees.
A spokesperson for the Ombudsman contacted by AJP confirmed that Chemist Warehouse is currently assisting the Ombudsman with inquiries relating to the payment of some employees within its network.
“As the inquiries are ongoing, it is not appropriate to comment further at this time,” they said.
It is noted the apparent transgression is a singular instance that Chemist Warehouse says has been resolved.
Chemist Warehouse group commercial manager Damien Gance told Fairfax a routine audit had found that staff had completed training outside work hours, and once the mistake had been discovered, all staff were given back pay.
However the pharmacists’ union says the investigation is not unexpected.
It is taking the opportunity to argue that the pharmacy group needs to improve pay rates for its employees across the board.
“The fact that Chemist Warehouse is under investigation is a concern for us, and is unfortunately not a surprise,” says Professional Pharmacists Australia spokesperson Matt Harris.
“We’ve had a number of members who are employees of Chemist Warehouse contact us with concerns about their entitlements.
Gance has told Fairfax that his group “consistently” pays above the award.
But Harris points out that salary surveys conducted by the PPA consistently show discount pharmacy chains including Chemist Warehouse pay lower market rates, very close to the award – around $5 per hour less than the average rate of pay when compared to other banner groups.
“What’s disappointing is that there’s plenty of Australians who trust the advice of their pharmacists every day, but the low wages that Chemist Warehouse pays its staff show they have a lack of respect for their work,” Harris tells AJP.
The PPA is also awaiting the outcome of its case before the Fair Work Commission. It submitted the outline of its claim just last week, arguing for the raising of the award rate.
According to AJP’s recent poll on the pharmacy wage crisis, the majority of readers believe that Fair Work Australia needs to increase the award rate.
“Employee pharmacist rates were last assessed in the mid-90s by the Fair Work Commission, and there’s been no consideration of the value of the work of these pharmacists since then,” Harris says.
“We believe that there’s been significant change in the profession since that time, and now the Fair Work Commission should reconsider the work value of those pharmacists.”
The union is seeking an increase of up to 30% in award wages, he says.
A spokesperson for the Pharmacy Guild of Australia said: “Workplace relations advice and assistance is a core benefit of Guild Membership. The Guild stands ready to work proactively with the Fair Work Ombudsman in assisting Members in self audits to ensure compliance with statutory and legal obligations. It is imperative that the broad pharmacy sector complies with the Pharmacy Industry Award and related workplace legal requirements.”
Chemist Warehouse was approached by AJP but declined to comment.