CWH the ‘worst offender’ on pay: union

Chemist Warehouse open sign

The union for employee pharmacists says that Australian discount pharmacy chains are “cutting trained pharmacy staff wages to the bone”

Professional Pharmacists Australia has revealed an insight into its Community and Hospital Pharmacists Employment and Remuneration Report 2019-20, which it says shows Chemist Warehouse is the “worst offender” in this regard.

Discount pharmacies including My Chemist (part of the My Chemist/Chemist Warehouse group) and Discount Drug Store pharmacies, alongside Chemist Warehouse, are paying staff at least $4 an hour less on the basis of median hourly earnings across classifications, when compared with other community pharmacies, the report states.

PPA president Dr Geoff March says the report shows “the shocking extent” of wage differences in the pharmacy sector, and highlights low wages and poor conditions across the board.

“This report reveals that the wages of many pharmacists at discount chains have been cut to the bone and they’re receiving considerably less than pharmacists at other community pharmacies,” he said.

“Pharmacists working in discount chains like Chemist Warehouse, Discount Drug Store and My Chemist are receiving a staggering $4 an hour less than pharmacists elsewhere doing the exact same job.

“Over a standard 38-hour week, that’s $152 or over $600 a month less than other pharmacists in the same profession and that is simply unacceptable.”

Interns at discounters fared very slightly better than elsewhere, bringing in median hourly pay of $24.76, compared to $24.70 in non-discounters.

Employees listed as “pharmacist” earned a median $32 an hour at discounters, and $36.75 elsewhere; experienced pharmacists brought home $36 at discounters and $40 at non-discounters; and pharmacists-in-charge $35 at discounters, compared to $40 at non-discounters.

Pharmacist managers earned a median hourly $38.50 at discount groups, and $42.53 at non-discount stores.

The union notes that National Pharmacies, UFS and Amcal/Amcal Max had some of the best rates of pay across the board, “making them appealing employers for community pharmacists”.

But the highest paid pharmacists were those who worked in hospital pharmacies, and who were covered by enterprise bargaining agreements.

“Pharmacists working in hospitals and covered by enterprise bargaining agreements could expect a median salary up to $7,500 per year, or $8 an hour higher, than pharmacists working in community pharmacies,” Dr March said.

“Enterprise bargaining also delivers the highest wages in the community pharmacy sector, with the National pharmacy chain’s agreement paying a pharmacist-in-charge almost $12 more per hour than one at Chemist Warehouse.

“Along with major discrepancies in conditions and entitlements with hospital pharmacists, such and leave loading, paid parental leave and uniform allowance, these pay differences act as major disincentive to potential pharmacists considering entering the community pharmacy sector.”

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