Pharmacist pay: what you said

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AJP’s comments boards have been running hot this week, as the issue of employee pharmacist pay came to the fore

First, we reported on the Fair Work Commission’s looming decision on the fate of weekend penalty rates.

On behalf of its members, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia has put in a submission to the review to have the Pharmacy Industry Award amended, to cut Sunday penalty rates to a 50% loading for all employees, whether casual or permanent.

This did not endear the Guild to our readers.

“I wonder what the various titles at the Guild are doing on a Sunday?” wrote Guy Callum-Power.

“I bet it’s not a 12-hour shift for SFA with no holiday loading.”

“If you don’t think it’s profitable for your pharmacy to open on Sundays, then don’t open it on Sundays,” wrote Ronky.

“Nobody’s forcing you to. This is just a sickening excuse to drive down pharmacists’ pay even further.”

Jane told us that, “I was earning the same wage on a Sunday 16 years ago when I had my first child as I am now.

“The fact that the rate has stayed the same all these years… sometimes I will see 20-30 people who want me to act as doctor on a Sunday shift, as well as do up to 200 scripts with very little support, no breaks, food if you can grab some.

“If that’s not worth a decent rate of pay, I don’t know what is.”

Guild executive director David Quilty raised the thorny issue of employee pharmacist pay, and how owners can invest in the future of their profession.

It got a reaction. “I work part time as a pharmacist at a small independent pharmacy in metropolitan Melbourne,” wrote reader Elizabeth McConchie.

“We sell jewellery, gifts, shoes, handbags, and clothes. We are a drop off and pickup point for parcels, sell myki cards and you can get a full manicure including SNS gel nails. We sell on eBay.

“Meanwhile I am on the same hourly rate that I was on in 2001. I don’t recommend this profession to anyone who asks.”

Paige wrote that, “Greed led to the discount model and subsequent greed by non-discount store owners led to low staffing, low pay and poor working conditions,” and urged a limit on the university place intake.

But Simon O’Halloran said that he honestly believes there has never been a better time to be a pharmacist.

“But that doesn’t mean that opportunities for increased pay are just going to fall into our laps. There will be no middle ground, either you will be an award rate dispensing pharmacist working for a discounter, or a patient-centered care pharmacist working for a service model.

“Don’t expect the ‘greedy owners’ or government to fix the problem without first innovating or demonstrating why you are worth more.”

PPA welcomed Quilty’s comments, saying that the pharmacist award pay rate needs to go up by about 30%, and employee pharmacists need better recognition for increased workloads, training, and skill requirements.

But this may not be realistic, some of our readers told us.

“Unless overall pharmacy profit increases then wages are certainly not going to,” wrote Big John.

“My prediction is that incomes and values in real terms will decrease over the next 2-3 years without any major intervention. Any pharmacies not located in growth areas will be hard pressed to improve profitability and support any wage increase.”

And Kat told us that “leaving pharmacy was one of the best moves I made and training for it one of my worst.

“I now have a higher base rate pay, proper penalties on weekends (because pharmacists have lives too) and best of all I no longer spend my days dealing with upset customers, retail demands to achieve sales targets, stressful interactions over S8s and risks to my personal safety as the person with access to the drug safe,” she wrote.

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  1. Bruce ANNABEL

    Surely instead of engaging in a slanging match and dwelling on the past it’s about time a positive solutions were out on the national agenda…and it’s not that hard! I have written about the solutions several times in AJP during the last three years, raised it in many speeches and made representations to many others. With price cuts and sophisticated competition the fat has been cut out of easy dispensing profits meaning if pharmacists want to be paid more they need to do more than just dispense and occasionally ‘come out’. That means engaging in a professional service and patient services model. Those who do are paid more and they enjoy the professional experience. At the same time employers who are a major part of the problem seeing pharmacists as a cost cut / profit holding initiative (which has been failing many owners by the way) must see pharmacists as a valuable resource who will drive up the average health sale per patient via professional recommendation and services. In other words, and the reason it’s a not such a difficult issue to solve conceptually, is it’s all about productivity!! This is why the PSA HDP programme is so important to employed and employer pharmacists. Most of my clients already recognise the productive and enhance the patient ‘stickiness’ value of the pharmacist while dispensary admin and support activities are conducted by technicians. Base rate of pharmacists doing this begins at $35/hour and works up to $45/hour depending on skill/knowledge and productivity. These are the most profitable pharmacies in Australia and most of you have never heard of them.

    • Simon O'Halloran

      Well said Bruce, this is exactly why I maintain my position that this is one of the most exciting times to be a pharmacist. Those that embrace the challenges and the ‘new reality’ will be firmly cemented as patient-centered healthcare professionals.

    • worried

      thats ok but most pharmacies will be owned by corporations and not individual “owners” anyway the the future so you need to be speaking to Ramsay health and CW, coles and woolies.

    • Nicholas Logan

      Good post Bruce. You can’t have too many pharmacists on board now provided they are high achievers.

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