Pharmacist penalty rates cut by Fair Work Commission

hourglass and coins - MA expresses PBS cuts concerns

Employees’ rates have been cut by half for Sunday and public holiday work

It’s a decision Professional Pharmacists Australia has called “disgraceful”.

“So this is the pay cut that the Guild has asked for,” says National Campaign Manager Matt Harris. “It’s a pay cut that no pharmacist can afford. You’ll be hearing a lot more from Professional Pharmacists Australia about this issue.”

Michael Butler, the National Director for Industrial Relations at Professionals Australia has called it a “disappointing decision”.

He explains that penalty rates for working on Sunday for full-time workers have been reduced from double time to time-and-a-half, and for casual workers from double-time to time-and-three-quarters.

“There’s similar cuts for public holidays,” he says. “If you’re working on a public holiday, for full-time employees there’s a reduction from double-time-and-a-half to double-time-and-a-quarter.

“And for casuals, from two-and-three-quarters to double-time-and-a-half,” says Mr Butler.

“So as you can see, this decision means that you will be required to work longer hours to receive the same amount of pay that you are currently are receiving. That’s it in a nutshell. The operative date will be in effect from the 1 July 2017. It will be phased in from between two and five instalments but that’s to be determined. The Fair Work Commission will be inviting the parties to make submissions on that.”

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia had put in a submission to the review to have the Pharmacy Industry Award amended to reflect the following in relation to Sunday work.

“The Guild’s position is that penalty rates for Sunday are too high,” a spokesperson told the AJP when the submission was made.

“Communities expect their pharmacies to be open at weekends, and preferably open seven days a week. To achieve this, the industry needs realistic penalty rates so that pharmacies can afford to open at these times,” they said.

While the spokesperson said the Guild recognises the “traditional family value of Sundays” – which is why the day should still attract a higher rate than Saturday – it did not deserve the current rate.

“The important factor never to lose sight of is that when assessing the appropriate remuneration that the pharmacy professional remains viable and sustainable moving forward,” they said.

But the pharmacists’ union says the pay cuts do not accurately reflect the services that pharmacists provide.

“It’s a very disappointing decision,” says Mr Butler.

“I think any future government needs to take action to protect our pay of employees and particularly pharmacists, because a lot of you are forced to work on a Sunday to provide a very valuable service to the community, just like a nurse, just like a doctor and other health professionals.”

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  1. Owner

    hell is a bottomless pit

  2. Diana Meyer

    Pharmacist 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.

  3. Andrew

    What a disgrace. This industry is utterly f**ked.

    Guild, FWC, Chambers of Commerce – you should be ashamed of yourselves – some of the lowest paid workers in the country have just taken a pay cut. Disgusting. Immoral. Unconscionable.

    • Ex-Pharmacist

      “Disgusting. Immoral. Unconscionable.”
      Pharmacy Guild of Australia in a nutshell.
      Pharmacy student? Young Pharmacist? Get out. GET OUT NOW!

    • Joh Bou-Samra

      Well said!

  4. Charlotte Hutchesson

    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.

    • Shane Eagles

      Need more proprietors out there like you Charlotte!

  5. Ronky

    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?

    • William

      It is the independent umpire’s decision, the union case was weaker than the Guild’s. Blame the incompetent union.

      • Ronky

        Its decisions should be based on facts and justice, not on which side can afford the most loquacious barrister.

        • William

          It was and that is why the decision to adjust the rates. Read the judgement..

          • Ronky

            So you’ve read all 551 pages of legalese? This profoundly unfair decision is not entirely the Commissioners’ fault as they are compelled to work within the framework imposed by the government and its big-business backers. Even the Commission admits in the document that it will make some of Australia’s lowest paid workers even worse off, and that no workers will be better off.
            Pharmacists would be interested though to see the “arguments” against penalty rates put forward by each of the 24 pharmacy owners put up by the Guild, and named and shamed in the decision document, along with the names of their pharmacies. Now you know whom NOT to work for!

          • Ex-Pharmacist

            Ronky, name them please!
            Where can we find the names of these greedy pharmacist owners?

          • Andrew

            Right here;


            Start on Amended Annexure A following Page 72

            Selected excepts from various owners’ submissions – several stand out as particularly egregious, others are supported by very tenuous arguments indeed.

  6. Shane Eagles

    How many of the Guild members are on < $60k per year and have to work Sundays not by choice, because if they didn't their household couldn't survive?

    Watch as hospitals, Big Pharma and organisations like the NPS get swamped with the CVs of Community Pharmacists looking for work, because this is the final kick in the teeth for a lot of us.

    • Mimimomo

      I have been trying to get into government Job, but is hard. Anyone have tips to apply for government job. Retail pharmacy is down the drain.

      • Ex-Pharmacist

        Pharmacy students think they will all walk into Public Hospital jobs (where the job is clinical & salaries + working conditions are fair, set and indexed by state governments).
        But there are not nearly enough positions!
        Hardly any pharmacists leave hospital positions, so openings are few.
        Yet we have 18 universities with 25 programs churning out thousands of graduates each year.
        With retail pharmacy down the toilet, the “profession” is in a dreadful mess.
        The guild-corrupted award is an embarrassment and the public and governments are starting to see. Mass strikes and public awareness is what will win the day against the unconscionable actions of the pharmacy guild.

    • Philip Smith

      I think Big Pharma is where I’ll go next. Just not a fan of living in the city or spending a lot of time driving.

  7. Brettthereluctantpharmacist

    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.

    • PharmOwner

      Couldn’t have put it better myself

    • Paul Sapardanis

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

  8. Amandarose

    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.

  9. Philip Smith

    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.

    • Ex-Pharmacist

      It never did, Philip.
      They went to hospital pharmacy, industry (pharma) and academia.
      Community pharmacy attracts the greedy (ownership) and the desperate (employees)

      • Dirk van Lill

        I’m neither greedy, nor desperate. Thank you.

      • Amandarose

        I am not greedy or desperate either. I didn’t like hospital work much preferring the difference I can make in people’s lives in the community which is significant, we really as seen as a wealth of free advice and services and it is nice to help people but someone has to pay somewhere.

      • William

        Very limited jobs for community pharmacists in academia and not too many in hospital pharmacy. As to industry increasingly nurses have taken the role of pharmacists and many manufacturing sites have closed down so industrial pharmacy job that earlier they would not even consider are filled by chemists.

  10. Andaroo

    Same position as you Charlotte at the start of the comments, and same opinion too. I pay $35 p.h., which is only that low because I can’t even afford to pay myself that much for my hours at work. We need higher awards and we need the pbs to pay more so we can afford it! Minimum wage should be $35-38.

    Personally I think after a certain amount of dispensing the fee should start to reduce per script, with that money increasing the base dispense fee. It would help smaller pharmacies that have a higher cost per script than the economy of scale 500+ script a day ones to stay viable

    • Amandarose

      I agree – a sliding scale would be good. I personally have a sliding scale of pay – I charge small pharmacies 40 per hr, medium 45 per hr and 55 to locum at a big box pharmacy. I figure it fits in with the work load and affordability of the pharmacy.
      I have never been paid more then $60 an hr for Sunday’s which I think is fair- if the award wage was more like actual pay the Sunday rates would be irrelevant.
      It’s the assistants that get the raw end of the deal with their very low wage- much lower then a doctors receptionist but with more responsibility and knowledge.

  11. Fred Smith

    The news is worse than you think. If you read the FWC’s ruling, as it relates to Pharmacy, you will see the following section;
    “[1892] The PGA’s claims in respect of Sunday work before 7:00 am and after 9:00 pm; Saturday work and the morning and evening work penalties applying Monday to Friday, will be the subject of further proceedings. A mention will be held shortly with interested parties to discuss the further hearing of these matters.”
    What this looks like is that the Guild are looking to go further than what was released today! They aren’t happy with just culling Sunday rates, they want to take the axe to all pay rates outside of normal “office hours”. God bless their greedy little cotton socks!

  12. Karalyn Huxhagen

    I watched the rural PGA webcast last night. The PGA quoted that they wanted this reduction to enable more pharmacies to be able to open on Sundays. In my region there are 25 pharmacies and only one does not open on a Sunday . We do not fit the PGA statistic at all. (46%)
    I have worked in small towns where the pharmacy that is open is on a roster. Great idea until a CW comes to town and opens every day. I was appalled at the comments by PGA that this drop is needed for affordability reasons. Our base rate is so low that of course sunday penalty rates look to be greedy. The webinar also discussed a call to arms to retrieve the money owed to pharmacy from the CPA when our dispensing rates did not achieve the targets set in the agreement. Why does every pcist have to lobby their member and the health minister to get back what is ours as per the agreement. Trent stated that the PM understood the maths of the agreement. Why can’t a PM go to the dept of finance and instruct them to pay what is owed? This is not the first agreement where this has happened. Why do we have an agreement if one side does not play by the rules?
    The discussion by PGA about penalty rates and why they put in their submission sickened my already defeated and saddened heart. Phcy is in the toilet with no life line. I am still waiting for the ‘rural’ part of last nights telecast. There was also no discussion on tranche 1 activities other than diabetes. Still waiting………..

  13. Toby

    If adjusting the Sunday penalty rates was the first step to adjusting the normal pharmacist rate, the Guild now needs to move to adjust the base pharmacist rate upwards. The low-ness of the pharmacist base rate is hurting employee pharmacists, and owners alike. (The latter via low PBS payments, based on a low pharmacist rate, at which it is difficult to find a pharmacist) Let’s up the award to something realistic, and professional. We’ll all benefit. And the bulk of owners like myself, I believe, are already paying something more realistic anyway. It’s the old story – you get what you pay for.

  14. The Pharmacist

    This will for sure attract leavers with ATAR score of 60 to join this prestige profession…. Pharmacy course is no longer packed with high achievers with > 95 ATAR scores

  15. Pete

    Yep, thats correct and has been the guilds position all along. Better to do something to lift the base rate in time. I hope everyone gives credit where its due when that happens.

    • Ronky

      I will when AND IF
      (a) the base rate is increased to where it was in real inflation-adjusted terms 20 years ago, and
      (b) if the increase is backdated to at least the date of this penalty rates decision, and
      (c) the Guild writes into all employment agreements that no employee will work on any Sunday or public holiday unless he freely volunteers to do so without any kind of pressure, threats or inducements (other than the reduced penalty rate).

  16. Bryan Soh

    wow now that penalty rates are cut, where is the guild in lifting base rates??? theres literally nothing on that front!!!

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