Pharmacy owners have been advised to avoid confrontation with protesters or union representatives in the wake of recent industrial action outside a number of pharmacies

In a members’ newsletter, seen by AJP, Guild leaders noted their “collective concern” over the industrial action, organised by Professional Pharmacists Australia (PPA).

The pharmacists’ union called a ‘National Day of Action’, on Sunday 6 August, asking for members to lobby pharmacies across Australia.

Its purpose was to make the public aware about how cuts to penalty rates will affect employee pharmacists, PPA spokesperson Georgia Kavanagh-Dando told AJP.

Many of the protests took place outside Amcal pharmacies, with PPA calling on people to pledge not to shop at Amcal pharmacies until they rule out cutting penalty rates for all pharmacy employees.

Guild executive director David Quilty and state branch presidents met to discuss the industrial action on 7 August.

They advised members who had “been the target of misleading communication or behaviour that would be deemed harassment in nature” to contact their state branches, adding they should do similarly if they receive a right of entry notice authorised by the Fair Work Commission.

These notices need to be submitted “at least 24 hours ahead of entering the workplace and the permit holder must not disrupt staff or operations in holding such meetings”, the Guild advised.

 “In the past, unions have set up pickets lines in some instance however not recently. Legally this is acceptable as long as individuals do not harass customers/staff or block access to the premises,” the Guild advised in its member communique.

“Members should avoid any confrontation with protestors or union representatives no matter how provocative they may try to be. If this occurs, it is recommended that members contact the police for assistance”.

The ‘Day of Action’ focused “attention on the second largest group of pharmacy businesses under Sigma, including Amcal, with Sigma-owned pharmacy brands representing about 20% of the sector,” said a spokesperson for PPA.

Sigma responded in a statement saying it was “very disappointed with the unprofessional and inappropriate action taken by the PPA in targeting certain Amcal pharmacies, including the distribution of false and misleading material.”

“We are currently investigating all appropriate courses of action, including legal avenues, on behalf of Sigma and our members,” said a Sigma spokesperson.

“The campaign by the PPA was not based on facts, and was intimidating for customers and the very people they purport to represent.”