Wages before imports


tug of war

Fix wages and conditions to retain and regain Australian pharmacists before focusing on migration, union says

Australian pharmacists need better wages and conditions, and these should be focused on rather than importing pharmacists, says Professional Pharmacists Australia.

The union was responding to a release issued this week by Alex Hawke, the Federal Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, announcing pharmacists were being added to the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL).

“With thousands of community pharmacies across Australia being invited to join the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, it’s all hands to the pump as the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues,” Mr Hawke said.

“The Morrison Government will support pharmacies across Australia, including through skilled migration, as supply of COVID-19 vaccine doses increases over the coming weeks.” 

Responding to the announcement, PPA president Dr Geoff March said: “Professional Pharmacists Australia does not perceive there to be a need to place the pharmacy profession onto the skilled migration list at this time. 

Dr March said the focus should instead by on improving conditions to retain currently practicing pharmacists and entice former pharmacists back to the profession.

“To attract new candidates and former pharmacists back into the community pharmacy sector its critical that employers and government instead focus on addressing the endemic workplace problems of the industry. 

“These problems include poor wages, low morale, a lack of career structure and high workloads and stress, all of which have been intensified by the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr March said. 

“Addressing these fundamental workplace issues will attract the sufficient numbers of high quality professionals the pharmacy sector needs.”  

Research released earlier this year revealed the levels of discontent within pharmacy and the numbers of pharmacists planning to leave the profession.

 

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56 Comments

  1. Paul Sapardanis
    28/07/2021

    And the winner is……. ( drum roll )….. Large discount pharmacies!!! Thats right my membership fees are being used against me! for the benefit of a group thats not a guild member. How good is that!

  2. Spili Geftakis
    28/07/2021

    I agree with the PPA. Importation of cheap lower quality overseas pharmacist stifles innovation in community pharmacy. Low labour costs has enabled community pharmacy to resist innovation into new services and continue to rely on dispensing revenue. The Reserve Bank Governor two weeks back in a speech spoke to this exact fact that immigration has been tied to low wages growth that we have seen in Australia in the last 10 years. There is a talent pool of highly educated Australian pharmacists that the focus should be on leveraging their skill set rather than replace even more of them with cheap overseas labour.

    • Susanne Weress
      28/07/2021

      Well expressed Spili.
      Clever Guild, outsmarted the profession and the naieve Fed Govt, yet again.
      Covid is a cover for substituting overseas trained Pharmacists for locals who have voted with their feet, walked away from exploitative and bullying work places.
      In order to apply from overseas/do the mountains of paperwork, be accepted, make arrangements and eventually book a flight (who pays for that?) within the 3100 cap/week to arrive in Australia, do hotel quarantine (who pays for that?) – and to be registered within the next 3-6/12 to actually perform the task they’re ‘ostensibly’ coming in to do – the vaccination surge workforce will no longer be needed.
      Or – will they be mandated to work as ’tech’s’ or vaccination ‘assistants’ – at even lower pay than a registered pharmacist, whilst they work through the registration requirements?
      Ahh that clever Guild again – overseas trained pharmacists to be paid minimal wage and meet the Govt’s overriding need to get maximum people vaccinated in order to call an election early next year, before May 2022. Do the PGA make political donations?
      And then, more success…the Guild has manoeuvred to have a workforce registered next year to replace all the disillusioned, burned-out pharmacists who’ve quit, wont work for
      “poor wages, low morale, a lack of career structure and high workloads and stress”
      to quote Dr Geoff March from PPA.
      Thats what clever Canberra political lobbying gets.
      And gives good employer members of the PGA a bad name.

      Just ask the PSS who hear callers speak to this every day of the week and year.
      …”its critical that employers and government instead focus on addressing the endemic workplace problems of the industry.” Dr March again.

      AJP – do a survey and ask Pharmacists:
      Would you recommend Pharmacy as a profession to:
      1. your children?
      2. anyone else?
      Then you’ll have a window into the future of a once desirable and admirable profession.
      Who, in Australia, will do/pay for 5 years of University in order to join it?

      • Sean
        31/07/2021

        There’s a section in PPA’s 2021 Remuneration Report that asked a similar question – what percentage of pharmacists were willing to recommend pharmacy as a career? The answer was 28% for all community pharmacists, and 15% for discount chain employees. Pharmacists employed directly by a public hospital were twice as likely to recommend pharmacy as a career (50%).

  3. United we stand
    29/07/2021

    The repercussions of this policy will be felt for another decade. Stagnant wages, zero innovation and sense of despair among pharmacists will remain if not increase exponentially.

    I have said this before. The forecast for community pharmacists is severe storm (skilled visas, discounting) with a chance of flooding (i.e. eventual automation in 2030s).

    Retraining is hard and demanding. But it gets harder the older you get with more responsibilities piled onto you from family and financial commitments you agree to undertake.

    During this pandemic, the greatest advice I can give is to divest your time and skills into training in an emerging field that can utilises your medical knowledge.

    Good luck to everyone. With current lockdowns across Greater Sydney, it’s not easy reading these kinds of news headlines

    • Michael Dedajic
      29/07/2021

      Thats great advice. Now is the time to look at other jobs and careers and to see what training needs to be done to move into these emerging areas. Automation will be the next big ticket item on the horizon (if pharmacists aren’t burnout out by then) that I think will but the final nail in the coffin.

  4. Red Pill
    29/07/2021

    If this is not a wake-up call for those dreamers still sticking it out than I don’t know what is. No one can fix this mess. PPA has failed to make any meaningful progress for the last 6 years. PSA was denuded and silenced years ago and the rest of smaller organisations have either been sabotaged by PGA or were disbanded.

    If the pandemic has shown me one thing, I don’t ever again want to spend 40+ hours per week of my professional life locked up in a sweat shop being abused over ridiculous matters. Life is too short.

    I don’t mean to sound callous. The skilled visa might be a good thing for the current cohort of pharmacists. It’ll finally force them to try and do better things with their lives.

    • Michael Dedajic
      29/07/2021

      Great to hear that you are moving on. I know so many people who have walked away from community pharmacy and have been so happy about their decision. It’s a very big step to do, and for some people it might not be possible due to family and financial commitments but once they do, they wish they did it sooner.

  5. James O'Loughlin
    29/07/2021

    RE: AZ Vaccination rollout in Pharmacy:
    We just got our approval to receive 300 AZ doses next week. The pharmacy owners are both very excited and have been meticulously planning its roll out. As advised by other members on this board, I approached them regarding asking for a bonus or a portion of the vaccination fee since I’m the only qualified immuniser at the pharmacy. One laughed and the other one said this is going to be a community service. We’re not expecting to make any money out of this.

    Anyone has any advice on what I should do next? I’m currently thinking to resign. The pandemic has thoroughly burnt out any ounce of passion I had left for this profession. I’m studying engineering part-time anyways. I can always try my hand at entering an intern role at an engineering firm.

    • Michael Dedajic
      29/07/2021

      Resign ASAP. Don’t waste your time. More pharmacists need to do this so these people get the message. I can tell you how happy people are once they leave community pharmacy. Pretty much lot of low skilled jobs pay on par or more than pharmacy

    • Susanne Weress
      29/07/2021

      Hmm, well James – sounds like short term limited thinking when they are fortunate to have one employee with valuable in-demand skills they need.
      An idea to consider:
      If it takes you say 20′ (or ?) to check, counsel, draw-up, administer each vaccination to a patient – you could track the time taken each day, and give them a choice:
      i) A handwritten invoice/followed by an emailed Invoice each day at the higher rate of pay for your additional qualification. They agree and sign off each day, pay at end of each week.
      Invoicing each day doesn’t allow accumulation without a decision.
      or
      ii) You leave earlier/arrive later the following day by the same hours. Vaccinations booked in middle part of day so they’re not jeopardised, patients inconvenienced.
      or
      iii) The ‘community service’ they offer patients from you – be split 50:50, so they offer it too. The payments split 50:50.
      They have a choice. Which is of higher value to them?
      Set these out in a written doc emailed, and handed to them (keep both records).
      If you’re thinking to resign, you too have a choice. What’s to lose?
      You keep your power, control and agency over what you offer – your training, skills, and your professionalism. They may consequently see you differently, when standing strong.
      Have you ever heard of an accountant, a lawyer not billing clients for every service, at $60/7min billing period?
      So why not a pharmacist charging when providing a client/employer with their valuable skills?
      Do you think there will be other (professional & decent people) employer pharmacists seeking qualified vaccinators in coming weeks and months? I’m thinking, yes….

      • James O'Loughlin
        30/07/2021

        Thanks Susanne for this great advice. I’m writing them an email today requesting an increase in my pay from $37 to $42/hr going forward reflecting my additional qualifications and the potential risks I’ll be facing vaccinating the public during the current Sydney outbreak with numbers increasing daily.

        I’ve read Jarrod McMaugh and others asking pharmacists to showcase their qualifications and passion. I thought since 2021 will be the last year I’ll probably be working as a pharmacist, I might as well stand up for myself.

        I’ll keep you posted on how it goes. Thankfully, the government has been kind enough to support Sydney siders if we lose our job so I’m feeling less panicked!

        • Susanne Weress
          30/07/2021

          Very sound approach James. Include if you’ve not written the letter, all the benefits for them, they may not have focused on. And keep adding to that list as you add to that skills base – the clinical, and the many ‘soft’ skills pharmacists have and can develop. The combination make you a valuable employee, manager, leader…anywhere you choose to work. Good luck!

          • disillusioned
            31/07/2021

            I can’t believe what I’m reading…

            $42 an hour is disgustingly low for a healthcare professional that requires a minimum of 5 years training let alone one with a skill that is supposedly in short supply.

            To need to beg for this is insulting.

          • James O'Loughlin
            20/08/2021

            They wouldn’t even agree to $42/hr.
            Tbh, my biggest concern was I’m in my early 30s and can’t see myself raising a family with a pharmacist salary. Something had to give.
            I’m retraining and advise those young enough to do the same.

          • Paul Sapardanis
            20/08/2021

            Good luck James. Unfortunately with the growth of discount pharmacies the ability to pay professional wages are a thing of the past. Instead of forcing us owners of changing the model our representative body decides to keep it going by importing cheap overseas pharmacists. What’s the saddest is to see young pharmacists like yourself gain the clarity to see that there is no future in growing within our industry. As an owner myself I’m sorry that there is no future for young pharmacists and again I wish you good luck. CHANGE THE MODEL!!

          • James O'Loughlin
            20/08/2021

            Hi Susan Weress and other readers,

            Unfortunately my request for a raise was knocked back. I was promised a bonus of undisclosed amount at the end of the year if we managed to make a profit from the AZ vaccination program. Their tone and attitude suggested to me it would be in the order of $200-$300!

            In the meantime, we have rolled out the vaccination program and it has created significant interruptions to dispensary workflow. As many of my Sydney colleagues can attest to, public anxiety is high, number of phone calls are unprecedented and quantity of delivery requests are not serviceable. Many of us are experiencing migraines and/or exhaustion after each shift. Wearing N95 masks for 10+ hours/day also doesn’t help our situation.

            I submitted my resignation yesterday and have given them my 4 weeks notice. I will be retraining as an engineer and will try to obtain a part-time junior role in an IT field since there is huge demand at the moment and would help my engineering career.

            It’s kind of surreal how I quit the pharmacy profession after 8 years. Good luck to every one of the pharmacists battling covid in these tough times and I hope you all find happiness in your work wherever you end up.

            Thanks for all your advice nonetheless.

          • United we stand
            21/08/2021

            Well done James! You have definitely made the right choice.
            If it helps you feel more confident about your decision, I used to earn $38/hr in 2006 as a newly registered pharmacist. If this is what you are earning in 2021 after 8 years, your decision is a no-brainer.
            I left the profession just before the pandemic and have not regretted a second of it.

          • Lucy
            22/08/2021

            Sounds like a great plan, too! I get very excited when I hear about people getting out of pharmacy. Same story, had been a pharmacist for about 8-9 years, now nearly half way through my new degree 🙂 It’s stressful and it’s tough managing money/study/family, but so so worth it in the long run. Good luck James!

          • James O'Loughlin
            15/09/2021

            Thanks Lucy. I actually managed to secure a part-time role at uni as a research assistant and it pays better than my pharmacist wage!

            Things are definitely looking up and I’d advise other pharmacists to do the same.

            My mental and physical health wasn’t worth all the stress in pharmacy.

        • chantelle pennington
          31/07/2021

          Well done James! Sticking up for yourself in these situations is what employee pharmacists need to do more! Especially, if the above information is correct (re: the owners making a profit), and it was a blatant lie they are not making any money out of it.
          In addition, what an insult to be laughed at. Disgusting behaviour. Good luck with it all!

    • disillusioned
      31/07/2021

      covid in pharmacy immunisation has an average profit of $21 per shot in metro.
      Cost of goods $0, consumables negligible, labour $37 an hour (or fixed if sole pharmacist), rent + electricity etc – FIXED.
      To say that they aren’t expecting to make money out of this is disingenuous.

      I encourage you apply to work in a mass vaccination centre instead as there is higher pay, better support, work environment, and progression and BEST of all you’re punishing the actions of your greedy owners.

      If I was in your shoes getting $37 p/h i’d rather be on a covid disaster payment than risk getting covid at work for a paltry sum.

      • TALL POPPY
        31/07/2021

        Do the math: $21 x 100 COVID shots per day = $2100 per day. At least one pharmacy is doing that many shots on record. That’s approx $30k extra GROSS PROFIT every 3 months! That’s excluding any extra sales they may generate too! Why do you think the Guild has lobbied the Government HARD for this? Go halves – $1050 to you and $1050 to the owner – that’s fair.

        This should be a straightforward business and any professional should achieve proper recompense for taking on additional training & responsibility (NOTE: I am told administering the COVID VAX is more complex than the Fluvax).

        Good luck!

        • Sean
          02/08/2021

          How many COVID19 vaccinations will the average pharmacy be doing per day? I’d be surprised if the average pharmacy does anywhere close to 100 per day

  6. Ai Nguyen
    28/07/2021

    Pharmacists should enjoy a salaly package like other industries which includes super, holidays leave and sick leave. No wonder why more and more pharmacists leave the profession and no pharmacists want to be back.

    • Sean Gannon
      28/07/2021

      Pharmacists are legally entitled to superannuation, holiday leave, and sick leave. If you or anyone you know are employed on a part-time/full-time basis (doesn’t apply to casuals) and aren’t getting those benefits, please contact the Fair Work Ombudsman.

      • Red Pill
        29/07/2021

        I’ve heard pharmacies that were still paying pharmacists cash in hand are struggling to do so lately due to the pandemic and the customer preference to make cashless payments.

        It’ll be interesting to see how they will maintain these practices.

  7. Robert Broadbent
    28/07/2021

    What they said

  8. Still a Pharmacist
    29/07/2021

    Common sense says any minister should check local production vs local demand before permitting the import. I am confident that the production of local pharmacists is higher than local demand, only the owners are failing to retain them in the industry.

    Can anyone smell any money from Guild involved in the decision process? Surely, the Govt doesn’t dare to do it with the doctors, although the shortage is much severe in that sector.

    It proves that the Guild considers employee pharmacists as a cost component only and try to keep that cost as low as possible.

    I think it the time to open the ownership to supermarkets or big investors who will offer proper working condition to employee pharmacists.

    • help!
      31/07/2021

      big investors care only about the shareholders

      • Sean
        31/07/2021

        I’m with you. The idea that Coles and Woolworths will treat us better seems like a pipe dream to me. The issue is not ownership rules per se (although there are huge problems there), it’s the retail business model combined with the lack of representation for employees. As long as pharmacy revenue is dominated by dispensing fees and front-of-shop sales, the incentive will be to crank out as many scripts as possible while minimising wages. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if there was regulation in place to cap workloads and guarantee fair wages, but there simply isn’t. Supermarkets will just continue the exact same business practices as we have now, probably with a more aggressive push for casualisation and automation.

        Side note: I’m actually not against automation, as long as it’s done with the intention to improve working conditions and patient outcomes.

        • help!
          31/07/2021

          you would have to cap rentals charged by landlords for pharmacy tenants as well …..and the governments wont go there.

          • Michael Dedajic
            01/08/2021

            Or you get rid of the location rules and problem solved. It’s the landlord that owns the pharmacy as they know you can’t just move away when you want to.

          • help!
            01/08/2021

            I don’t see how that will change anything. Landlords will just throw you out at the end of the lease and put the pharmacy out to tender .At least a number gives you a small amount of security.

          • Still a Pharmacist
            02/08/2021

            Getting rid off location rule will help bright, young pharmacists to remain in the profession by becoming their own boss, and not working for a shop-owner and getting paid poorly.

            However, Guild will never allow that to happen. They will say location rules ensure all Australians get pharmacy services, but never explain how. And remember they donate money to both sides of the politics.

          • help!
            02/08/2021

            The gross margin (sales less cost of goods sold) is $1.11 million for the average pharmacy and average annual net profit equates to nearly $101,000. Rural pharmacies represent 16% of the total of 5,665 community pharmacies and there is one pharmacy for every 4,341 Australians.

            Guild Digest – Pharmacy Guild of Australia

          • Michael Post
            03/08/2021

            Yep , expenses plus owner wage of 300k + leaves a nett 100k .
            Not a bad gig especially when there is no tender process outside of tendering a price.

          • help!
            03/08/2021

            Owners don’t get a wage unless they work there. And remember an average means just that. Some Pharmacies earn well below $100,000 after all running costs.

          • Michael Post
            03/08/2021

            In any business I can tell you nett profit is whatever you want it to be.
            Absent owners can still take a wage as can their wives, children , parents and siblings. Its called income splitting whether legitimate or not eg your wife/husband does the books, children do the website etc
            Experience enlightens conversations about ownership.

          • Jarrod McMaugh
            03/08/2021

            I think this is something that first-time business partners in an established pharmacy should be aware of. Before I sold my pharmacy I was in a very productive business partnership, but I’ve had colleagues who were basically entrapped in bad contracts that saw their potential income stifled by the actions of their business partners, who had majority share.

          • help!
            04/08/2021

            Please get some facts from a CPA.

          • Michael Post
            04/08/2021

            Lol. I use a CA for a reason!

          • help!
            04/08/2021

            As long as they are not receiving more than the industry standard per hour , the tasks of bookkeeping and websites are important for any business.

        • help!
          31/07/2021

          the average rent to sales per pharmacy is almost double where it was 10 years ago……”.boom’ there’s the problem!

        • help!
          31/07/2021

          Sean you seem like a smart guy if you went back to uni and did an MBA all of this would become crystal clear to you.

          • Sean
            31/07/2021

            “Sean you seem like a smart guy” – way to lose all credibility there buddy

  9. Paul Sapardanis
    30/07/2021

    This decision by the guild is a white flag moment for pharmacy. It resigns pharmacy to a corporate discount model where service/innovation will struggle to compete. Low wages will now become endemic and the brightest of students will shun community pharmacy. Opportunities for advancement are basically nil. As an owner I say to potential future community pharmacists to THINK hard if this is what you want. I have always thought that a brighter day would come but now I am sure it wont. To the guild executive you have taken the future away from our young pharmacists and small independents. Paul Sapardanis guild member

  10. Serena Alkhoury
    31/07/2021

    I work at a really busy discount pharmacy in one of the Western Sydney LGAs currently under strict lockdown and we have been told a positive case attended our pharmacy for over 30 minutes while infectious on Tuesday.
    The pharmacy owner has never taken Covid seriously. Thinks the risks are being exagerated. There were no limits on how many people were coming in. Many customers didn’t wear their masks properly.
    Now my team and I are isolating and had to be tested. He hasn’t said a word to us expect to follow NSW Health orders.

    Tbh, this was the final nail in the coffin for me. Regardless of what my test results will be, I won’t be returning to community pharmacy.

    Good luck to these overseas pharmacists flying in. Enjoy your PTSD and peanuts for a salary.

    My husband couldn’t believe what I was getting paid when we met until I showed him my payslip! This profession is no profession at all.

    • TALL POPPY
      31/07/2021

      Well done Serena! Why be a prisoner and pawn of the profession any longer? Everything I have been saying is being proven true. Regarding the discounters – it really seems like they don’t care about their pharmacists.

      And lip service just won’t do – significant pay increases are needed!

  11. disillusioned
    31/07/2021

    What happened to the article(s) where it was shown that the Pharmacy Guild now owns APC, the company that is responsible for assessing the skills of international pharmacists. Queue the flooding of poorly trained international pharmacists who will now just need a pulse to pass their exams, dragging the reputation and wages of the industry down further.

    The realist in me knows that the PGA has planned for this to happen.

    The user “Red Pill” below is totally right. I was an edge case because wages were starting to trend to an almost satisfactory $ value but this has pushed me over the edge. I now welcome Amazon ( + other multinational players) into the industry and I hope the PGA get their comeuppance.

    • Jarrod McMaugh
      02/08/2021

      for clarity, APC (Australian Pharmacy Council) is an independent body, and while it’s board includes one guild member, it is not owned by any other pharmacy organisation.

      Are you referring to ACP (Australasian College of Pharmacy), which was recently purchased by the Qld Branch of the Guild?

      APC does indeed assess competence of international pharmacists, but is not owned by the guild.

      • disillusioned
        02/08/2021

        I stand corrected but my sentiment remains the same.

        Jarrod, Do you happen to have any insight on how professions are added onto the PMSL list? I.e. did a submission to the govt need to take place? And is there transparency behind the process?

        • Paul Sapardanis
          02/08/2021

          Yes. The guild made a submission to the relevant authority.

        • Jarrod McMaugh
          02/08/2021

          I have no idea about PMSL I’m afraid. It’s outside of my area of experience

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