Penalty rates cut: what you said

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Our readers are up in arms about the decision to slash penalty rates, with many saying it will drive pharmacists out 

Readers of AJP have responded angrily to today’s decision by the Fair Work Commission to cut penalty rates.

Sunday rates for full-time workers have been reduced from double time to time-and-a-half, while for casual workers rates have been cut from double-time to time-and-three-quarters.

Matt Harris, national campaign manager for Professional Pharmacists Australia, slammed the Pharmacy Guild following the decision, saying “the Guild had a choice. They didn’t have to join this case to slash penalty rates. They made an active decision to disrespect the work of thousands of hard-working pharmacists, and today’s the result of their work”.

There will be significant flow-on effects for the sector and for patient outcomes, PPA believes, and many of our readers agree.

Here are a selection of reader comments: 

Pharmacists already work long hours and are totally underpaid, paying us less will just cause more resentment towards the owners and the guild and result in more pharmacists walking away

Diana Meyer

So community pharmacy as a career is going to be able to attract top talent how?

Without intelligent people working in pharmacy we will become irrelevant very quickly.

Just part of the death spiral we are in I guess.

Philip Smith

We work long hrs, no break often not even to go to the bathroom. Pays stagnant for a decade and government cuts that effect the generosity of owners.

A higher base rate in keeping with other health professionals is needed would make the penalty cut fair

Amanda Rose

I am a pharmacy owner and I am surprised by this. I would hope fair work is looking to increase the base rate for a pharmacist at some point soon. The award wage does not reflect the responsibilities of a pharmacist. I believe it needs to increase by about $10/hour.

Charlotte Hutchesson

As a pharmacy owner myself I have to agree with you 100%. Not only is it a kick in the teeth to our employed coleagues but it also gives corporate pharmacies another competitive advantage over independent pharmacy. Hopefully get a better decision when the work case value comes through

Paul Sapardanis

What is the point of even having a Fair Work Commission when it can make decisions as manifestly unjust as this, which I’m amazed that even the Guild had the gall to ask for?


That sounds fair. However, so does paid work-through-lunch, or actually getting a lunch break plus overtime that’s actually accounted for. Also, being able to decline to work sundays is fair too. It’s a market economy, if you want someone to work, you calculate your opportunity cost, the pharmacist calculates their’s then if there’s no agreement the owner can work instead. Simple. Also, don’t re-sign those dodgy single enterprise agreements!


It’s merely one more nail in the coffin of the ‘profession’ that once was pharmacy.

As an owner (well, at least until the bank foreclose on me) I can say that unreasonably high pharmacist wages is not one of the problems facing the small independent pharmacy.

It’s like driving past a car wreck, I have a morbid curiosity to see just how much lower the profession can sink?

Defeatist? Pessimistic? Damn right I am.

Brett the reluctant pharmacist


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  1. Emmanuel Mahlis

    We no longer live in a society where Sunday is family lunch day i.e pot roast and Veg day. We no longer all go to church as a family on a Sunday; as a society we live in a brave new world. It is a 24/7 society and Sunday for some is like a Monday and for others a Monday is the same as a Sunday (in the old traditional sense) . Unfortunately these traditions which protected family life and where workers were NOT expected to work on a Saturday after 2 pm and Sunday, no longer exist. Penalty rates were a compensation for working on days where you were NOT be expected to work on days meant to be complete rest days, family orientated or religious orientated.
    Conversely many workers have milked the system by working Sundays to enjoy a day off during the week and to earn more.
    Unfortunately due to online shopping and the move from overseas retailers setting up shop ( with the expected continued huge drop in margins) online retailers and warehouse discounters continue to grow their market share and profits are down.
    All Penalty rates will not be sustainable in years to come directly due to margins dropping; as market share will drop, and jobs will dwindle as retail market share goes to the larger corporates.
    Everyone must accept change and adapt and make necessary changes now to our retail businesses and business models before we all slowly become extinct. We must find new ways of growing our business and profits.
    Workers will need to accept that penalty rates will one day go altogether the same way many retailers will go and other forms of retail shopping is taken over by online and warehouse style operations.
    We need to reinvent ourselves.
    In the same way we accept traditional family life is now gone and the 24/7 society has taken over in Australia.
    Unless we fight to bring back the traditional family life and bring back price regulation and all the protection we enjoyed 40 plus years ago we have no choice but to accept and mourn the loss of a past life where we were comfortable and enjoying peace and harmony and a more secure way of life.
    Prepare yourself for a world which is changing day by day and old traditions no longer are valued and large corporates dictate our lifestyle and the majority of our spending habits along with new age attitudes and habits.

    • William

      You have summarised the things that have changed and are unsustainable in the future. It may be consoling to dream of the past but unfortunately society has moved on.

      The advent of on-line shopping has and is going to decimate a lot of industries just as blacksmiths were essential prior to the industrial revolution they exist now as a demonstration of earlier skills or in art..
      Hospitality may last a short while longer but as robotics advance this will be impacted too.

      Older people pine after the good old days but they are not returning.
      To think that protectionism is the answer is a forlorn and incorrect hope.

      • Emmanuel Mahlis

        Evolutionary steps and measures will see major advancements in technology this will create much more opportunities to manage monitor treat and ensure good health in both patients and healthy people who want to stay healthy.
        Genomics and epigenomics, stem cell therapy will see new public health policy emerge to create better healthier environments and lifestyle for all.
        Society will go full circle and we will decide to return to basics.
        Money and profit is not everything but a good healthy happy life truly is a pursuit for us all.
        I see a super society emerging
        I think it’s already starting to happen.
        Already we are talking about everyone receiving a basic stipend to live on. What is next? I truly believe in a harmonious future society no long dependent on growth economics.

    • Daniel Roitman

      While I agree that Sunday’s are no longer as unique a day as they used to be, the weekends in general are still most definitely different to the standard days of the week. Children are at school Monday to Friday, as are the overwhelming majority of the working population. Those who work weekends are sacrificing their social time with members of their family and community in order to at least attempt to earn a living wage. The proof that this is an unfair and duplicitous decision is in the fact that essential services i.e. police, nursing etc, are exempt from this ruling.

  2. Stephen sharp

    One day the guild will realise if we pay a relevant wage to staff the PBS will have to pay owners a fair amount.

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