Fighting for higher pay

PSA is ‘waking up’ as an organisation and moving forward on key topics such as pharmacist remuneration, says president Chris Freeman

The current rate of pay for pharmacists does not reflect their training, skills and experience, and their responsibility in the health system, PSA president Chris Freeman reaffirmed at the 2019 Australian Pharmacy Professional Conference on the Gold Coast.

“The Fair Work Commission ruled recently that they didn’t see the need to increase the base rate for pharmacists, which was disappointing. But they did articulate there might be some cases where there has been advancement – in their view – of pharmacist practice,” said Dr Freeman.

“Some of those included things like medication management reviews, but also the delivery of vaccinations. We have had the opportunity to provide a second submission based on their determination, and what we’ve put in that is to suggest that where a pharmacist is required as part of their job responsibilities to perform things like medication reviews, they should have a loading applied to their wage because they’ve got greater responsibility in that role.”

Asked whether it was disappointing that other groups such as the Pharmacy Guild have argued against this increase, Dr Freeman told AJP: “If you take a step back and look at where we’ve come from, there is significant change in the fulfilment of scope, the standards which are applied for pharmacist practice, and to us it’s very clear that actually has made genuine leaps forward.

“While we might not have seen massive changes in the scope of practice, I think the depth of practice has really changed for pharmacy, and we would hope that the entire profession would support something like that.”

Pharmacy Guild national president George Tambassis said his organisation is working closely with other pharmacy organisations to address pay.

“Pay is an issue, and we’re looking at it very seriously … Of course, as professional pharmacy owners we want to pay our staff more, but it’s got to be a win-win, where remuneration into the pharmacy also goes up so we can flow this onto our staff. This has always been the Guild’s position. It’s as simple as that,” Mr Tambassis told AJP.

“At the end of the day if we get more remuneration – like for example receiving the full allocation of $18.9 million that we were promised in the 6CPA – why wouldn’t we flow this onto our staff? That’s probably the first thing we’d do, because that’s the goodwill of our pharmacies.

“So we’re working very closely with organisations like PPA and the PSA – who recently put in a submission on pay. We’ll look at and consider all that and see where we land, but we must remember that the 7CPA represents another opportunity to have a look at pay, wages and salaries, not just for our pharmacists, but for our pharmacy assistants as well, to ensure they’re paid a fair an reasonable amount.”

Dr Freeman says the PSA and the Pharmacy Guild should be working together on what they have in common.

“Where we have common ground, if you look at the Community Pharmacy 2025 document and you look at our Pharmacists in 2023 document, there’s a lot of commonality there. And I’ve had lots of discussion with senior Guild representatives, and the conversation is, let’s work on the things we can agree on and drive those together, and not fight over those things which are the small minority component as well. We’re stronger together in that sense and there’s a lot of things we actually agree on,” said Dr Freeman.

PSA has had a busy couple of years, releasing new reports and new initiatives.

“People feel as though the PSA has been a sleeping giant, where we have a lot of potential but we tend to not have followed a lot of things through in the past perhaps. I think the recent activity in the last 12-24 months is a reflection that we’re starting to wake up as an organisation and take the lead on some of these key topics,” said Dr Freeman.

“Pill testing and pharmacist remuneration are two of the big things that we’re working on at the moment, but there are many things on the agenda moving forward.

“We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from people suggesting the society is moving in the right direction,” said Dr Freeman.

“We’ve got a good working relationship with the government at the moment,” he said, with one sign that PSA is making headway at the moment in Minister Hunt’s announcement about adding PSA as co-signatories to the 7CPA reveals.

“We’ve had our members say to us for a long period of time now that they feel as though we should have a place at that table, we’ve had external stakeholders saying the same thing to us as well, and even the King Review had recommended that that be widened.

“We had been in discussions with Minister Hunt for a long time last year, he made a commitment to us late last year that we would be co-signatories, and then when he felt the timing was appropriate he made that announcement. So we were well aware that he had made that commitment to us prior to when he made it public.”

With PSA is focusing on roles, remuneration and recognition, Dr Freeman also called for:

  • Abolishing caps on HMRs and RMMRs
  • Pharmacists to be embedded into aged care facilities, general practices and Aboriginal health centres
  • Pharmacists to be prescribing by 2020, starting with collaborative prescribing
  • Funding framework for health services and consultations in community pharmacies
  • Chief Pharmacist at the Department of Health

See the full interview above.

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  1. Ex-Pharmacist

    Tambassis: “At the end of the day if we get more remuneration … why wouldn’t we flow this onto our staff? That’s probably the first thing we’d do, because that’s the goodwill of our pharmacies.”
    LOL! HaHaHa!
    George, you might have the ear of the Pollies, but you can’t fool us.

    • Paige

      I think a more eloquent way to sum this up is: Wage payments as a % of revenue for pharmacy should be around 14%, we need it a little higher than the 10% advocated in most other industries due to being a high service model.

      When revenue falls, this % rises. Most pharmacies at the moment would be sitting at around 18-20%. Its really hard to justify wage increases when your % to revenue is 4-6% above where it should be. Revenue streams need to enter pharmacy to offset this decline to allow for wage reviews.

      The average pharmacy owner has no idea how to run their business, so increasing award or otherwise forcing larger payments on them would probably just hasten their bankruptcy. The gov took away the dispensaries ability to turn a dollar, they need to help to increase the viability of the pharmacy. After which we THEN increase award because I don’t trust a single pharmacy owner in this country to pass on increases. #corporateownership

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