‘It’s an absolute disgrace’

angry woman

‘These must be the lowest paid, but most highly qualified professionals in Australia’: Pharmacists and supporters slam new award minimum rates of $27.19 p/hour

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) recently announced that in relation to modern award minimum wages, from the first full pay period on or after 1 July 2018, minimum weekly wages will be increased by 3.5%, with commensurate increases in hourly rates on the basis of a 38-hour week.

As of 1 July 2018 the minimum pay rate for a Pharmacist will be $27.19 per hour and the starting pay rate for an Intern Pharmacist will be $23.25.

Professional Pharmacists Australia’s (PPA) President Geoff March welcomed the FWC national minimum wage review as a “step in the right direction”.

However he said the 3.5% increase will not bring pharmacy award pay rates to a level that reflects the value that employee pharmacists produce.

“Employee pharmacists work hard for our community and deserve higher pay. We will continue to wait for the FWC to rule on our case to increase Pharmacy Industry Award pay by an average of 30%.”

Based on responses to the news on social media, most pharmacists agree with Dr March, saying the rise just isn’t enough.

Here are some of the responses (respondents have been de-identified for privacy purposes):

“Not nearly enough for the years of study, training, all the responsibilities we have, services we offer & duty of care to customers. It is well below other health professions such as doctors, specialists, anaesthetists & the likes!! The pay has never increased much over the decades like other professions and it has been Guild recommending to the pay tribunal that wages should stay at minimum wages. Very disappointing that the Guild has allowed these low wages, great that PPA & others are fighting for the workers though.” – EB

“My sister is a nursing student with no experience and earns more than $30 an hour doing casual admin work in a children’s hospital. This is garbage. I’m a pharmacist and I’ll never be able to go from hospital to community with these wage rates. Severely underpaid profession.” – RR

“Yay a minimum of $27 for a gruelling job that requires an absolute shitload of uni study.” – OT

“After 20 years, I am now paid 22 cents above award.” – MC

“Who would have thought we are qualified health professionals with remuneration that poor. Woolworths checkout operators probably get more.” – CT

“5 years total of study/internship just to be paid LESS than a supermarket checkout assistant. So disgusted. If only I knew the pay was like this before making my decision to enrol in Pharmacy.” – XS

“My mum works in childcare and she earns 30 bucks an hour as a fulltimer after a 1 year diploma at TAFE.” – BS

“It’s an absolute disgrace. People who have to train for so long and take on a huge responsibility for the health of customers are paid a pittance. Where did it all go so wrong? These must be the lowest paid, but most highly qualified professionals in Australia.” – PA

“Disgrace full on. It’s worse than 20 years ago. Downhill. I never encourage anyone to study pharmacy.” – JT

“Wooo soft serve cones on me!” TD

“What’s all the hoo ha about? Should I be excited about getting paid less than a supermarket worker ?  Disgusting….. so much responsibility for what ?  The perception out there is we’re rolling in it ….. keep dreaming.” – VA

“The silver lining is that we will probably never earn enough to pay our HECS back.” – EL

What do you think about the current state of pharmacist wages? Comment below.

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  1. JimT

    I totally agree that $35/hr min is much more realistic, but how will business fund this. Pharmacist primarily are tied up with PBS duties hence Govt. will have to fund this part of the equation. Someone else can do the math on this one but will it happen….it better !!

  2. William

    Some interesting comments in the body of this article.
    My advice to those who are not “getting on” and vigorously complaining is to retrain as something else if they are so disgruntled.
    Modern day pharmacy has been nothing more than retailing over the last 30 odd years.

    The high cost to the taxpayer of healthcare will demand further rationalisation and productivity all the way through the chain.
    The first step may be the supermarkets entry as in other countries.
    Ultimately technology will overtake the “professional” role of pharmacy and distribution will be concentrated in area centres. Prescriptions will be sent electronically to these centres where software will check the patient’s medical history, possible contraindications etc and robots will pick the product, note batch number and expiry date, apply the label.
    The patient will be advised when ready and collect from their designated area centre.
    Maybe one our two pharmacists will be employed in the centres and pick-packers.
    Maybe the German type of “droggerie” which sell most of the current shop stock will take old pharmacy’s place.
    Pharmacists will go the same way as blacksmiths.

    • JimT

      dear william, if you’re a pharmacist and not getting on then what are you planning to do , just for interest’s sake

      • William

        Yes I am a pharmacist and realised in the late 1950s that I did not want to stay a shopkeeper all my life. So I continued on and studied Science to PhD level and post doctoral study then joined industry where I really enjoyed myself.
        Now that is not helpful to others but here is some advice for them. If one is not progressing after 20 years like that quoted above I would ask myself why this was so.
        Recent graduates should review their prospects after five years and evaluate whether they liked being a shopkeeper. If not it means that his choice and the careers advisers at his school have let him down.
        A lot comes down to aptitude, personality, skills, likes etc. One does not have to have 5 years of tertiary study to be a shopkeeper.
        One does not need to go to university to get a well paying and rewarding job.
        Australia is crying out for tradesmen, plumbers, electricians, carpenters and the like.

        • Michael Khoo

          Well, If you find your practice as a community pharmacist is “being a shop-keeper” then the best thing you can do is seek another profession, regardless of pay.

          • William

            Michael you obviously have not read what I wrote originally and in response to Jim T comment or else your comprehension is lacking.
            If you are happy being a shop-keeper then good luck.

          • Michael Khoo

            Sorry? What? You were a shop-keeper, dissatisfied, then became a pharmacist?
            Yes, not comprehending at all. OR, your practice as a Pharmacist was “as a shopkeeper”? in which case, you were most wise to move on.

          • William

            I suggest you take a few deep slow breaths before you post and closely read my comments and try to comprehend what is written.

          • Ex-Pharmacist

            William, that might be asking too much of him.

  3. Bruce ANNABEL

    What a tangled web they weave. The award rate is dreadful and it’s an enormous pity, even an indictment, that the peak bodies have sat back on this vital issue. Pay peanuts and you get monkeys is an old saying that I hope doesn’t come true in community pharmacy. Fortunately the great majority of owners pay pharmacists a base hourly rate of $35 or more depending on ‘what they deliver’. Some owners disgracefully still see pharmacists as a high cost to be minimized which is truly not clever. Maybe ok in the short term but doomed to fail of course. The argument that should be had is what should be the role of a pharmacist. I’ve been arguing for 20 years that it isn’t processing scripts because others can do that at a lower cost and as well or even better. In my experience pharmacists are incredibly intelligent well qualified professionals placed in a role not befiitingbthese attributes. If the peak bodies worked hard together coming up with a set of productive roles for pharmacists including attendant hourly wage rates there could be some impetus for meaningful change plus pressure placed on certain employers to utilize pharmacists more appropriately and productively for the benefit of all including, heaven forbid, patients!

  4. United we stand

    If you’re still a community pharmacist January 2019 then you agree this is what you’re worth. You have 6 months to get out. Set yourself a goal, fix your resume, enrol in a new course if you must. But dont you dare come here to complain about the state of pharmacy come next year. These are the cards you were dealt with. Either keep playing or fold your hand and walk away. Simple

    • JimT

      believe me I’ve tried that, Got Diploma as motor mechanic, 18 months (labouring) in a bottle shop, now got 4 bulging discs to contend with. Time to hang up my boots but at 60 I’m not ready to retire and got 4 at home to move on as well. I will get back into locum work and actually looking forward to doing work around the country….a working holiday as it were…..but still the issue remains for me and every other pharmacist out there and especially the ones coming through the system, what we get paid award wise is crappy, simple !!

  5. Paige

    Deregulate and allow industry leaders to correct this problem. The guild doesn’t represent me or the VAST majority of the industry. Lets break up the pharmacy cartel of Australia and allow entrants who will pay us what we are worth.

    • Jarrod McMaugh

      You’re right, deregulation always increases remuneration.

      Well thought out plan there

      • Paige

        Jarrod.. You’re a pretty considered person. Do you honestly believe that the future of pharmacy in this country is safest in the hands of the guild? I have routinely seen staff, underpaid and deprived of things like super, leave, penalty rates and breaks. These aren’t even one off occurrences, they are epidemic.

        I see runaway resentment towards our ‘governing’ bodies for the way they have been bleeding the industry. What is your proposal to fix this? The system is crying out for change and everyone seems to be a critic of my suggestions without offering any of their own.

        We are the most tightly regulated industry in the country.. and consequently also the lowest paid. We cant go much lower with the custodians that we have.

        • Jarrod McMaugh

          In response to your points
          1) Thankyou
          2) No
          3) Those things are illegal – report them
          4) They are not epidemic, they are anecdotal.

          5) Me too – I also see misplaced resentment (ie blaming the wrong people/organisations)
          6) My proposal to fix “everything”? It is to give 100% of my support to PSA, and also support other organisations where I agree with specific initiatives
          7) There are plenty of people crying out for change – but often the change being called for is in the wrong direction. deregulation of pharmacy ownership – whatever you think of it – is NOT the answer to remuneration issues for pharmacists.
          8) I have made many submissions about the pharmacy professional and the industry as well. They’re worth reading (in my opinion)

          9) Nope, not by a long shot (but we should be well regulated)
          10) Nope – also not by a long shot (But we should NOT be)
          11) We absolutely can get much lower. Much much lower… especially since the conditions that most pharmacists dislike have been driven by those who are not one of those “custodians”

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