Pharmacists fight ‘draconian’ cuts

Gianni Sottile speaks to Mater pharmacists
Gianni Sottile speaks to Mater pharmacists.

Pharmacists at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane are protesting pay cuts they say could be up to 18%

Union members at the Mater voted on Thursday to take industrial action, up to and including going on strike, says Gianni Sottile, Professional Pharmacists Australia lead organiser, Queensland.

The pharmacists voted 97% in favour of the action, which could include putting up posters, dispensing drugs to patients free of costs, and to strike.

Allied health workers at Mater sites have been protesting the new award since late last year, and are now joined by around 80 pharmacists across the sites.

“Pharmacists have voted to take action so they can stand up against the Mater’s proposed 18% pay cut, and to fight for a quality patient care,” said Mr Sottile.

“Pharmacists in private hospitals have been forced to take action in ACT Health, at Epic and now at the Mater to defend their pay and conditions,” he told the AJP.

“We want to send a clear message to pharmacy employers – we will fight you for a good future for the profession.”

He said that the Mater has proposed 18% pay cuts for pharmacists with the introduction of a new pay structure, and an annual pay increase of 2%, which is below the pay increases for all other groups in the hospital.

“Patients, especially cancer patients and new mums and babies need high quality pharmacy services to make sure they get the medications they need,” said Mr Sottile.

“You can’t run a hospital pharmacy like a Chemist Warehouse.

“Our members are committed to patient safety – so we plan to escalate industrial action from putting up posters and stickers, to dispensing drugs for free to patients, and up to strike action, to give Mater a chance to live up to their values.”

The industrial action is set to escalate over time, with initial measures to include putting up posters and talking to patients in the hospitals, followed by dispensing drugs at no cost to patients.

It will only escalate to a strike if the Mater refuses to review its position on the cuts, said Mr Sottile, describing these cuts as “draconian”.

He said that 95% of members had voted on the action, with 100% in favour of supplying free medicines and 97% in favour of strikes up to 12 hours.

The Mater said in a statement on Friday that it values the contribution of its pharmacists and is “committed to working with employees and their representatives to finalise a new Health Practitioners Enterprise Agreement”.

“As a private, not-for-profit healthcare provider, during this routine process Mater is seeking to find a balance between the individual interests of its employees and the ongoing sustainability of these services,” it said.

Acting Regional Executive Director of Mater Health (South East Queensland), Dr Trisha O’Moore Sullivan outlined her support in finalising a new pharmacy agreement which she said would balance the best interests of both employees and healthcare services.

“Action on this issue has not yet commenced,” Dr O’Moore said. “Mater continues to work with employees and ensure we are providing the best possible position for our employees and provision of our services.”

Mater says that it will continue to work with its employees and their representatives to finalise a new Agreement.

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