Across the country pharmacists are doing it tough, with low (and dropping) wages a key theme emerging in submissions to the King Review

At PSA16, Lance Emerson announced that, “Pharmacist wages are the single largest issue facing the profession in community pharmacy”. And those writing King Review submissions agree, with the issue cropping up repeatedly.

Employee Pharmacist said that “The reason I left the profession, and what I hope you will consider as a matter of great importance in this review, is that the conditions for an employee pharmacist are disgraceful.

“I entered the profession with optimism that I could help patients and have a fulfilling career, and I am sorely disappointed.”

“Studying a very demanding subject matter for five years to make the same money you can make without any skills at ALDI or working at a pub,” and “working full time but employed as a casual so your employer doesn’t have to pay you benefits (very common)” are just two problems facing pharmacists today, they say.

“If the minimum wage for a pharmacist is not lifted, there will be a mass exodus of bright young pharmacists who will flock to better careers, and the Australian public will be much worse off for it,” they warn. “I believe this has already begun.”

Pharmacist Carlene Smith cited PPA figures stating that “a pharmacist starting salary is $39,000 and is lower than any other professional.

“At the recent review meeting, pharmacists said they were paid $25 per hour… even worse. Also it notes:

  • the average base hourly rate has increased by 2.3% compared to 3-4% achieved by other groups; (in truth, it has probably not increased at all)
  • 63% of pharmacists work through lunch, with 50% not being paid;
  • 43% of pharmacists are employed as part-timers and 24% as casuals;
  • 33% of pharmacists would like more hours of work; and
  • 37% of pharmacists have not had a salary review since 2009.

“For a graduate who has completed four years at university these results and conditions are appalling.

“For people who are considered a valuable and trusted member of the community, these numbers must be altered.

“Implementation of payment for services is therefore fundamental to adequate remuneration of pharmacists.”

Community pharmacist employee wrote that they could list multiple occupations that require cheaper and less education to obtain employment that offers higher salaries.

“Pharmacy remuneration and pharmacist remuneration is inadequate and inequitable,” they write.

“There are multiple occupations I could list that require no continuing education or less continuing education than a pharmacist is required to do by law at considerable cost.

“I understand there are multiple factors that impact on remuneration but a major factor is pharmacy government remuneration and regulation.

“If the community and government wants individual pharmacists to provide high quality health services with a high level of education then individual pharmacists must be remunerated adequately.”

This writer also said they were likely to leave the profession if the King Review – which they describe as their “last hope” for pharmacy – does not make a difference.

Jacquie Tsimbinos, who owns a Terry White, said in her submission that pharmacist wages are “appalling”.

“The amount of risk and responsibility with the role is overwhelming but community pharmacists are not remunerated to reflect their roles. Why would someone study for four years and accumulate a huge HECS bill only to be paid a little more than a pharmacy assistant?”

Tsimbinos was one of several submission authors who linked poor wages to the impact on pharmacy of price disclosure; this is another strong theme apparent in the submissions.

“Pharmacy owners cannot accommodate paying more to pharmacists because they are already struggling to make ends meet each month,” wrote Tsimbinos.

“The government needs to step up and take responsibility for pharmacist wages.

“More and more young pharmacists are leaving the profession because they feel they have no future which is very sad.”

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Pharmacy wages under fire

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