Is the 7CPA a chance to lift pay?


hand out for money - coins in palm

It’s a good start, but it’s not enough – that was your view on the 5% pay rise for employee pharmacists announced last month

The Fair Work Commission’s decision on the Pharmacy Industry Award meant a 5% pay rise – half of which came into effect on Monday, 1 July, and half from 1 October.

This is in addition to the 3% increase arising from the Annual Wage Review 2018-9.

The response was very clear: 64% of respondents (295 votes) at the time of writing said that as employee pharmacists, the pay rise was good, but not enough.

Interestingly, another 12% (56 votes) said that they felt the same way, as employers.

Only 6% (26 votes) said that they were owners who thought the pay rise was great, and another 5% said they were employees who thought so too.

Another 6% (27 votes) said they were employees who did not welcome the pay rise, and 3% owners who didn’t support it.

Chris Freeman, national president of the PSA, said these results reflect the sentiments expressed to the organisation by members – again, both employers and employees alike – as well as the fact that the award rates aren’t adequate for the role pharmacists perform.

“One of the major issues for PSA members is what they take home after a long week of the critical work they do as medicines experts,” he said.

“I know many owners who would dearly love to pay their staff much more than they can afford, but they’re being squeezed at both ends in terms of remuneration into the pharmacy, and costs such as wages and rents.

“Our sentiment is the same as that of the people that took the poll: it’s a good first step. But it’s exactly that, a first step in recognising the vital role of pharmacists and the work that they do as medicines experts.

“In the Award there remains a significant discrepancy between pharmacists’ extensive qualifications, and the rate of pay.

“It’s inadequate remuneration for pharmacists and fails to actually recognise the time that many have devoted and the education they have undertaken so that they can deliver high quality health care services.”

Dr Freeman warned that many pharmacists are potentially leaving the profession due to the low pay, and that by increasing pay, it would be more likely to retain its “best and brightest”.

Some employers have expressed concern to PSA about the impact of the rate rise on their pharmacy’s ability to employ staff, and the viability of their business.

“I hear those concerns, but consider that there’s no better time for a pay increase than less than 12 months out from the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement,” Dr Freeman told the AJP.

“The 7CPA presents a real opportunity to incorporate the cost of employing pharmacy staff and pay rates.

“Some remuneration [for pharmacies under CPAs] is based on the cost of employing staff. So if wages continue to be suppressed, there are unlikely to be significant rises in the amount negotiated in the Agreement.”

Dr Freeman said that the 7CPA was not the only mechanism to increase pay for pharmacists and income into pharmacies, and that PSA continues to seek to diversify remuneration through concepts such as access to the MBS.

Dr Geoff March, Professional Pharmacists Australia president, told the AJP that the union agrees with the majority of AJP readers that the pay rise is good, but not enough.

“Our members gave evidence at the Fair Work Commission of the increasing value of pharmacist work and we argued strongly that the Award does not reflect that value,” he said.

“We are continuing to pursue further increases based on relativities with other award wages of similar educational requirements and experience. The Fair Work Commission has referred this question to the President for determination.”

He noted that PPA’s 2018 Community Pharmacists Employment Remuneration Report showed employee pharmacists employed under an enterprise bargaining agreement report the highest wages and conditions.

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