Pharmacist roles have increased in responsibility and complexity, yet their wages and conditions do not reflect this, argues the pharmacists’ union
Recently hospital pharmacists in the ACT secured commitments to improve their wages and conditions, following a staffing crisis.
In September Professionals Australia ACT director Dale Beasley told the AJP that a number of pharmacists had left the system and more were ready to walk out for good, thanks to issues around understaffing and resultant conflict with other health professionals.
Following extended negotiations, hospital pharmacists have won “clear commitments” from ACT Health to address their concerns.
However while this was a win for one group of hospital pharmacists, Professional Pharmacists Australia (PPA) says there is still an ongoing battle to improve the wages and conditions across community pharmacy.
“In recent years, pharmacist jobs have increased in responsibility and complexity. In addition to dispensing medicines, pharmacists provide vaccination services and health checks, yet their wages and conditions do not reflect their increasing role and importance to our health care system,” says PPA.
The organisation’s Community Pharmacists Employment and Remuneration Report 2016/17 found of greatest concern are the increasingly blurred lines between pharmacy and retail functions.
“Pharmacy chains such as Chemist Warehouse, Amcal and Terry White Chemists account for 65% of pharmacy industry. These chains, operating under a retail model, are aimed at maximising sales and put profits over the responsible dispensing of medicines,” argues PPA.
They say pharmacists need to lobby their employers to negotiate Enterprise Bargaining Agreements (EBA) that protect their work rights.
“Enterprise Agreements establish a firm commitment to minimum conditions for community pharmacists,” says the PPA.
“Enterprise agreements are agreements made between employers and employees that contain terms and conditions of employment. They override the award and must be certified by the Fair Work Commission to be enforceable.
“To be registered by the Fair Work Commission the majority of the employees who will be covered by the agreement must vote in favour of accepting it and the agreement must provide for terms and conditions of employment that are better off overall than the provisions of the award.”
To achieve an enterprise agreement at a workplace, pharmacists’ will need the approval of 51% of the workforce, or the support of their employer.
Currently pharmacists working at National Pharmacies and HPS are covered by enterprise agreements. The vast majority of pharmacists working in hospitals are also covered by enterprise agreements.
While the Pharmacy Industry Award provides a safety net of minimum pay rates and employment conditions for pharmacists across the entire community pharmacy sector, an EBA sits above the award and sets out terms and conditions for a single enterprise, which build upon the basic entitlements of the award.
“The advantage of enterprise agreements is that they can be tailored more precisely to the needs of the employer and employee in a specific enterprise. This results in productivity improvements for the business and a fairer share of the financial benefits of these improvements to employees,” says PPA.
The EBA must be compliant with the Fair Work Act and must be certified by the Fair Work Commission.
Enterprise agreements can be negotiated with a single employer or one or more employers co-operating as a single enterprise. They can be negotiated for banner groups and partnerships, if they are single enterprises under the Fair Work Act.