Meds left out in the heat, allege union workers


sun through heatwave

The National Union of Workers has turned its attention to Sigma, alleging “grubby tactics and casualisation”

Speaking to the ABC on Wednesday, workers alleged that prescription medicines that need to be refrigerated were stored in the open, while other prescription medicines, OTC medicines and baby formula were left outside in high summer temperatures. Sigma rejected these claims, saying safe, responsible medicines handling was its key priority.

 A NUW spokesperson said that members attended the location where the Sigma Annual General Meeting was being held, to send a message to the wholesaler that “what they’re doing to their warehouse workers around the country is unacceptable”.

She accused Sigma of having a program of “cutting wages, cutting conditions, shutting down good union jobs and outsourcing the work to insecure casual labour hire jobs”.

She also alleged that CEO Mark Hooper had voted to award himself “millions of dollars” while throwing workers “on the scrapheap”.

“Pharma workers are at #Sigma’s AGM this morning to call out their grubby tactics of intimidation and casualisation!” the NUW posted.

“Sigma have been shutting down good union sites all over Australia, making workers redundant and opening up warehouses on non-union agreements using labour hire workers.

“Sigma recently lost their Chemist Warehouse contract—50% of their overall volume, meaning 160 warehouse jobs lost at Rowville and over 300 Australia-wide.

“But Sigma continue to employ labour hire at all of its sites, slashing wages and pushing workers into insecure casual work.

“Meanwhile CEO, Mark Hooper, has awarded himself a bonus of almost $2 million dollars over two years!

“SHAME on Sigma. Pharma workers deserve secure jobs and fair pay!”

The ABC’s Nassim Khadem reported that workers claimed, in interviews with the ABC, that they had significant concerns about the way medicines were handled at Sigma warehouses.

Allegations include that medicines which require refrigeration – from prescription medicines such as Humira to Swisse complementary medicines including probiotics – were stored on the floor of warehouses for several hours.

The workers also said that cephalexin and anti-depressants were left out in high temperatures for hours at Belmont, while at Rowville, Diltiazem, Glimepiride and Tambocor were subjected to this treatment.

They said OTCs including headache and cold treatments, allergy medicines and baby formula were left in high temperatures for hours at Belmont, while at Rowville, this happened to OTCs including Rikodeine, Durotuss, Difflam and Dermaveen.

A spokesperson for Sigma told the AJP that “Sigma Healthcare and all its distribution centres adhere to the regulatory requirements of the Community Service Obligation (CSO) Deed and the Code of Good Wholesaling Practice (GWP).

“Our processes are regularly audited by federal and state authorities and we have passed every audit.

“All employees (including agency hire team members) in the distribution centres go through police checks prior to commencing employment and are provided extensive training prior to handling any stock.

“Sigma’s top priority as one of the largest distributors of medicines to community pharmacies and hospitals is the safe and responsible handling of all medicines.”

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