War of words continues over College restructure


College of Pharmacy president refutes “resentful” PSA claims that member vote to accept a Pharmacy Guild-backed proposal was not a “resounding endorsement” 

The president of the Australian College of Pharmacy has rejected claims by the PSA that “a handful of votes” was all that had been needed to accept a “takeover by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.”

Members of the College voted earlier this week to accept a proposal from the Queensland branch of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia (of which Mr Owen is a branch committee member) to restructure the college as a proprietary company, with shares owned by the Queensland Guild.

The PSA had previously questioned the proposal, saying it was a takeover by the Guild, and raising doubts on the validity of the process.

In the wake of the member vote, a PSA spokesperson reiterated these concerns to AJP, and calling for a postal ballot, which the College board had initially planned. 

“In the lead up to the Australian College of Pharmacy Members General Meeting… serious concerns had been raised with PSA by College members regarding a Special Resolution regarding what effectively amounts to a takeover of the College by the Queensland Branch of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia,” the PSA spokesperson said.

“What was reported as a resounding endorsement by members, was hardly that. Less than a handful of votes were the deciding factor in the future of the College.

As a result of the vote conducted yesterday, we understand that in line with the Australian College of Pharmacy constitution that members have called on the College Board to conduct a postal ballot which will allow voting by the entire cohort of College members and we will again urge College members to reject the proposal put to them by the College board.”

Mr Owen told AJP: “I do question why the PSA continue to comment on these resolutions which have not only been unanimously agreed by the College Board but also passed in a super majority member’s vote.

One may draw the conclusion that the PSA is resentful of the fact they had the opportunity to secure the future of the College but were unsuccessful in their offer to do so”.

Claims that the offer by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia is a takeover bid were “false”, Mr Owen said. 

“Former College President Dr Treasure McGuire has publically stated that the College first acknowledged the need to look for external, financial support in 2018,” he said.

“We had detailed discussions with both the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Queensland and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia across a twelve month period,” Ms McGuire commented.

“The agreement offered by The Pharmacy Guild of Australia Queensland offered to retain current member benefits including fellowships, a lower fee structure and maintaining the independence of the Academic Board, to name a few”.

The PSA offer would effectively have seen the College dissolve into an existing division of the PSA, and as such was deemed by the Board at the time to be an unsuitable option for the College and its members, Mr Owen said.

He also rejected the PSA claims that “less than a handful of votes were the deciding factor in the future of the College”, and that a postal ballot was required.

“79.1% of members voted in favour of the resolutions. In line with the college constitution, any special resolutions must receive 75% of the votes. This outcome clearly achieved this super majority,” Mr Owen said.

“The Board originally decided to provide a postal poll option to the membership to encourage maximum participation and minimal interruption to our members. While it was a more expensive option, we felt a greater a participation rate would ensure more members had the option to vote than attend a meeting. 

However some members felt that the postal ballot was not in accordance with the constitution and requested a Members Meeting,” he said.

“The Board scheduled the meeting as soon as possible while observing the requirements as set out in the College Constitution. While not ideal timing throughout January, holding the meeting as soon as possible allowed the Board to secure the future and provide certainty to the College membership.

Following the positive announcement of the resolutions considered at the Members Meeting, the same members who requested the members meeting, requested a second postal vote of the resolutions.

Given the outcomes of the members meeting and the financial impost on the College to administer a second postal vote, the Board is currently seeking legal advice regarding this request. As such, we are unable to comment further on this issue,” he said.

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