Union calls for industry-wide bargaining

The employee pharmacists’ union has likened pharmacist wages to those of a “labourer” – a comparison the Guild rejects

In a post on its website, Professional Pharmacists Australia has called for industry-wide bargaining to lift pharmacists’ pay.

“The Fair Work Commission provisionally rejected our work-value claim to increase the pharmacy award rate late last year,” it says.

“Under the current Award, a pharmacist’s hourly pay is like a labourer’s! 

“It takes between 5-6 years to become a fully qualified pharmacist! After study, responsibilities include HMRs, RMMRs, inoculations and emergency contraception to mention but a few. 

“The basis of the claim is greater demand on the skills of pharmacists.”

The union says that wages should reflect these years of study and the range of responsibilities carried by pharmacists.

It also cited the Pharmaceutical Society’s recent report, Pharmacists in 2023, which among other recommendations included a plan to allow pharmacists to practice to their full scope of expertise, and to increase wages.

“The current rules will not recognise a pharmacist’s full scope of practice,” says the union. “The FWC provisional ruling is proof of that.”

Chris Walton, CEO Professionals Australia, said that wages have not increased to reflect the change in a pharmacist’s job.

“It’s extraordinary that the system has ignored that fundamental reality,” he said.

The union says that award rates have been “stripped bare” and that “profits go straight to employers,” highlighting recent cuts to penalty rates and claiming pay rises are “non-existent”.

“We need to end the competition’ to have the lowest wage cost. We must push for industry-wide bargaining,” it says.

“Under the current system, rogue employers gain an unfair advantage by underpaying workers.

A Guild spokesperson told the AJP that while the Fair Work Commission’s decision in December did not accept the PPA (APESMA) work value claim, it did however recognise that the pharmacist’s work value had increased in specific areas.

“The FWC has requested all parties to address this point in future submissions,” the spokesperson observed.

“The comparison of the current minimum safety net Award wage to a labour’s wage is not valid.

“Employment classifications have unique capability, skills, knowledge and experience recognised in previous decisions to set the minimum safety net under the award system.   

“The Guild position is the minimum safety net for employment conditions is contained in the Award as determined by the FWC.

“Nevertheless employers need to remunerate staff appropriately to attract and retain the best employee for their business operations and skills/knowledge utilised.”

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