“Low pay locks pharmacists in virtual poverty trap”


Pharmacist union says it wants to bring back Coalition in an effort to improve pharmacist wages and conditions

Professional Pharmacists Australia (PPA) CEO Chris Walton has welcomed the decision of new PSA President Dr Shane Jackson to embrace pharmacist remuneration as a core issue.

Mr Walton’s statement refers to the recently released PSA Early Career Pharmacist White Paper 2017, which recognised that inadequate remuneration was “the single largest issue” identified by early career pharmacists.

Out of 10 recommendations included in the White Paper, the second recommendation was that “the profession should negotiate to raise the Pharmacy Industry Awards”.

“Many ECPs indicated that they believe that the current pharmacy award rate is low in comparison to other healthcare professionals, and that while it is important to recognise that wages need to be balanced to ensure a viable community pharmacy network, it is also important to retain talent within the profession,” reads the PSA White Paper.

“Remuneration should adequately reflect the level of care and time provided to patients by pharmacists as well as the responsibility required of the profession.”

Mr Walton said the PSA’s realisation of the importance of appropriate remuneration for pharmacists is an important step.

“We look forward to working with PSA to improve wages and conditions in the future, however we’d like to see the Pharmacist Coalition for Health Reform re-kindled, which was dissolved five years ago under pressure from the Pharmacy Guild,” Mr Walton said.

The Pharmacist Coalition for Health Reform, which originally launched in mid-2011, included the PSA, SHPA and PPA.

However it disbanded less than a year after it was formed.

“Recent comments from Dr Jackson give us great hope that he may be a stronger voice, standing up for working pharmacists against entrenched power in the sector which prevents working pharmacists getting ahead,” says Mr Walton.

“A Pharmacist Coalition for Health Reform would only succeed with a genuine commitment to serve the interests of the vast majority of pharmacists in the sector – employees.

“We like to see more collaboration across the sector through a coalition of pharmacy bodies committed to rebalancing the existing system to provide better pay, greater opportunities and better professional development for working pharmacists.

“Low levels of pay lock pharmacists a virtual poverty trap, while the cost of living continues to grow,” says Mr Walton, who adds that a coalition of pharmacy bodies could serve to address this issue.

PPA is currently running Work Value Case in the Fair Work Commission, seeking a 30% rise to the Pharmacy Industry Award rates.

It also recently ran protests across the country against cuts to penalty rates, mainly targeting the Amcal pharmacy brand.

PPA organises protest over penalty rates outside Amcal pharmacies
Source: Facebook

However the move drew criticism, particularly from Amcal’s parent company Sigma.

“Sigma is very disappointed with the unprofessional and inappropriate action taken by the PPA in targeting certain Amcal pharmacies, including the distribution of false and misleading material,” it said in a statement released last week.

“We are currently investigating all appropriate courses of action, including legal avenues, on behalf of Sigma and our members,” said a Sigma spokesperson.

“The campaign by the PPA was not based on facts, and was intimidating for customers and the very people they purport to represent.”

In a members’ newsletter seen by AJP, Guild leaders noted their “collective concern” over the industrial action organised by PPA.

They advised members who had “been the target of misleading communication or behaviour that would be deemed harassment in nature” to contact their state branches, adding they should do similarly if they receive a right of entry notice authorised by the Fair Work Commission.

These notices need to be submitted “at least 24 hours ahead of entering the workplace and the permit holder must not disrupt staff or operations in holding such meetings”, the Guild advised.

“Members should avoid any confrontation with protestors or union representatives no matter how provocative they may try to be. If this occurs, it is recommended that members contact the police for assistance”.

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