Union sends mass letters over penalty rates

letters envelopes

PPA has called on hundreds of pharmacies across Australia to confirm they are not cutting penalty rates, with Amcal firmly in its sights

Amcal pharmacies across the country have been sent letters asking whether they will be cutting penalty rates, Professional Pharmacists Australia (PPA) has confirmed.

The move comes nearly two months after PPA held a national protest in front of Amcal stores across the country, in an effort to draw attention to its campaign against cuts to penalty rates.

“To the Owner… I write to you on behalf of the Professionals Pharmacists Australia membership to urge you to make the right choice and confirm whether you will protect penalty rates for your hardworking pharmacists,” writes the PPA in its letter.

“The Australian community – your customers – are strongly opposed to penalty rate cuts and we intend to highlight employers who choose to protect their staff’s penalty rates in a positive campaign about workers’ rights.

“Conversely, we will also make sure the community and healthcare consumers know which employers are not protecting penalty rates so they can make an educated decision about where to shop.

“As an owner of an Amcal Pharmacy, you know the important service pharmacists provide for our community. Recently published information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicates that pharmacists are some of the lowest paid professionals in Australia,” writes the PPA.

“We seek confirmation that you will maintain penalty rates at 200 per cent on Sundays and 250 per cent on public holidays for full-time and part-time employees; and 225 per cent on Sundays and 275 per cent on public holidays for casual employees (inclusive of casual loading).

“Should you stand with your employees, we would welcome the opportunity of pursuing options for a more sustainable and ongoing relationship and would like to highlight your responsible position.

“We request that you advise us of your position within 7 days of receiving this letter, as we will need to let our members know and it will inform decisions about our campaign informing the community.”

PPA organises protest over penalty rates outside Amcal pharmacies
PPA held protests against cuts to penalty rates outside Amcal pharmacies a few months ago. Source: Facebook

Meanwhile the Pharmacy Guild of Australia has condemned the move, advising its members not to feel pressured to respond.

“The letters are a thinly veiled threat to campaign against pharmacies if they have implemented the Fair Work Commission ruling and paid the lower penalty rates since 1 July,” it says.

“The Guild reminds members that they are not obliged or required to provide the information requested by the PPA, and should not feel pressured into providing the information unless willing to do so.

“It is each employer’s decision as to whether or not to implement all or part of the FWC penalty rate ruling, and the union has no right to demand information and make threats.

“If you receive such a letter, please contact your Branch so that we can track the campaign.”

A pharmacy owner that prefers to remain nameless told AJP that the letters are coming across to owners as an “intimidation tactic”.

“There is talk that they will picket pharmacies that have passed on the cuts,” says the owner.

However a PPA spokesperson told AJP that its intention in sending the letters was not to intimidate, but to “get confirmation on what’s happening directly from the source, so we have numbers for our members on how many Amcal pharmacies are (and aren’t) cutting penalty rates”.

Sigma Healthcare, which owns the Amcal brand, said it was “very disappointed” by PPA’s choice to target Amcal during its nationwide protests in early August.

“Sigma is 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,” it said in a statement.

“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.”

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