Intervention allowed

Minister granted the right to intervene in pharmacy award dispute

The Western Australian government has been granted the right to intervene in an ongoing dispute between Chemist Warehouse and the leading retail employees union.

On 22 May, the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission ordered that the state’s Minister for Commerce and Industrial Relations be granted leave to intervene on behalf of the State in the case of The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association of Western Australia vs Samuel Gance t/as Chemist Warehouse Perth.

A dispute has been ongoing since late 2017 over whether the Shop and Warehouse (Wholesale and Retail Establishments) State Award 1977 applies to all to retail pharmacy workers employed in any callings mentioned in the Award.

The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association of Western Australia filed a notice of application on 3 November 2017 for a declaration that the Award did cover all pharmacy workers, however this was disputed when Mr Gance (trading as Chemist Warehouse Perth) filed a notice of answer saying the Award does not apply to retail pharmacies or their employees.

On 12 December 2017, the Pharmacy Guild of Western Australia Organisation of Employers was granted leave to intervene in the case, as specified in the court records, and subsequently, on 17 May, the Minister for Commerce and Industrial Relations gave notice of his intention to intervene under the Industrial Relations Act 1979 (WA).

In his submission, the Minister (Bill Johnston, ALP, MLA for Cannington) said he sought leave to intervene because “this application raises a significant issue about the effect, if any, of a change of respondency to an award and the principles to be applied when considering that issue.

“The outcome of the decision in this matter will potentially affect the application of other awards”.

Unlike the parties and the Intervener (the Guild), the Minister “is not partisan and merely seeks an opportunity to be heard in relation to the proper principles to be considered by the Commission in this matter,” the submission stated.

The Minister’s intervention was not opposed by the union.

The respondent (Mr Gance trading as Chemist Warehouse Perth) said “it is not clear why the Minister would have an interest in the proceedings”, according to the documents, and the Intervener (the WA Guild) said it opposed the Minister’s intervention because it says “the Minister lacks a direct interest in the proceedings”.

However, Commissioner Emmanuel declared the Commission was satisfied that the Minister has an interest in the proceedings, and granted him leave to intervene on behalf of the State. 

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