The pharmacy union is pushing for changes to industrial relations rules ahead of its final Fair Work submission, as AJP readers criticise pay rates for employee pharmacists
Recently Professional Pharmacists Australia called for industry-wide bargaining to help improve pay rates for employee pharmacists, which it compared to those of a “labourer”.
Its final submission to the Fair Work Commission is set to be delivered on Thursday, February 28.
PPA president Dr Geoff March has now told the AJP that the union is taking part in the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ “Change the Rules” campaign, which has a number of aims.
According to the ACTU, these include allowing workers to convert from casual to permanent employment if they work regular hours; ending labour hire and “sham contracting rip-offs;” and end employers’ ability to terminate workplace agreements.
The campaign also seeks to increase the minimum wage, ensure award minimums improve over time, undo recent cuts to penalty rates, and “make our bargaining system fair”.
“There are limited avenues to pursue truly industry-wide bargaining as opposed to enterprise bargaining under the current industrial relations system,” Dr March told the AJP.
“Our members are currently going through enterprise bargaining with HPS, Epic Pharmacy and National Pharmacies.
“PPA is working as part of the Change the Rules campaign to change industrial laws to allow for industry wide bargaining that can deliver fair pay across the entire industry.”
Dr March said that “pharmacists are undertaking more professional services right now that generate significant benefit to patients which is recognised by government in payments to pharmacies”.
“As skills which require higher levels of responsibility and training pharmacists deserve to be paid for their delivery,” he said.
“These are a significant part of our final submission to the Fair Work Commission this Thursday.
“Our members’ statements in our submission to the Fair Work Commission as a part of our ongoing work value case demonstrated the significant increases in workloads.”
Dr March also reiterated PPA support for the PSA’s recent report, Pharmacists in 2023, “as it complements our work on the classification structure that rewards higher skilled pharmacy roles that we are pursuing across the industry in EBAs and through the Award”.
Following AJP’s recent report on PPA comments on bargaining rules and pay, readers expressed significant dissatisfaction with their wages in particular.
“A pharmacist’s wage is comparable to a labourer’s?” wrote reader Charbel Habchi.
“Oh how we should wish that it was so. A labourer working under an enterprise bargaining agreement is guaranteed a minimum of $40+ per hour, and that’s for an entry level labourer without their allowances.
“Now consider a skilled/experienced labourer with the various site allowances and that hourly rate creeps well above $50/hr.
“So please guys, let’s not compare ourselves with anybody in the construction industry, it’s just too demoralising.”
Dan Corrigan, who came to Australia from Canada 12 years ago, said he could not believe the award wage at the time, “as it was 10 years behind what we were getting paid in Canada at the time”.
“To believe the award wage is still the same now is crazy. It really is an insult to our profession.”
Tall Poppy crunched some numbers, stating that “pharmacists need to be paid what they are worth – and that is certainly NOT $28/hr”.
“Pharmacist wages overall have not increased in-line with inflation (should be approx $51/hr now – you are right now earning less than in early 2000)!” they wrote.
High-profile doctor and frequent critic of the pharmacy sector Dr Evan Ackermann mused about potential solutions.
“Why does a pharmacist work for a salary – and not say as a % of income they generate?” he asked. “Ie as in a GP and a General Practice.”
Reader Kristine Hall opposed the idea, saying that “we should not incentivise sausage factory script output” and that there were better mechanisms to improve pharmacist pay.
“The number of scripts dispensed per day, is not simplistically linked to clinical input and value to the healthcare system.
“Nor is it aligned with the national medicines policy and quality use of medicines… Is the pharmacist who diligently services their rural client base worth less to the health-care system than the under-the-pump big box employee who barely has time to talk to a patient?”
And Michael Post suggested that introduction of individual provider numbers for pharmacists “may well improve equity in both pharmacist finance and patient outcomes”.