‘There will be a mass exodus of bright young pharmacists’

young pharmacist or doctor with "talk to the hand" body language

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.”

You may be interested in:

Pharmacy wages under fire

Pharmacist pay: what you said

Previous Owners speak up on location rules
Next The week in review

NOTICE: It can sometimes take awhile for comment submissions to go through, please be patient.


  1. United we stand

    Dear Guild, in a 2016 survey conducted by AJP, 62% of pharmacists indicated they are fed up with the profession and want to leave. This wasn’t a small sample either. Over 1400 pharmacists participated in this survey. Here’s the link for your reference: https://ajp.com.au/news/quitting-the-profession/

    Your president, Mr Tambassis, had very little to say except: “wages aren’t great but the focus should be on a strong pharmacy model”. Here’s proof: https://ajp.com.au/news/pharmacy-wage-crisis/

    The current survey being run has shown 84% of pharmacists believe the current method of CPA negotiations involving only the Guild & the government is not ideal.

    We are not idiots. So stop treating us like one. Your interests lie with the owners and owners alone. Your days are numbered. Pharmacists are no longer the quiet, conservative bunch you are so well accustomed to.

    7CPA will have other interest groups present on the panel to ensure fair distribution of resources and wealth.

    • BlinkyBill

      Lol the gutless guild don’t couldn’t care less. Their pockets are full and laughing their way to the bank.

      I’ve successfully bagged a GAMSAT of 73 earlier this year and applying for med/dent schools :bbb As an intern i’m about to sit for my oral exam in a few weeks and the only motivation in passing these exams is to get the f… out of this ‘fast-food-like glorified retailer of a profession’. More importantly, it will increase my chances in getting admission into some med schools modestly.

      I will not allow my self to be disrespected with supermarket wages selling toilet paper and recommending bogus add-on sales. As a bright student I know my worth and many of my collegues are ditching this flimsy retailer of a profession. You know this when you want to be a caring health professional but realise you make less than the cleaner you are conselling oroxine on…

      Your life is miserable trying to make ends meet while you are burdened with a worthless HECS debt that don’t reflect the years and tears. How do you expect to help others when you can’t help your self??? Just painstakingly heart throbbing.

      As a 20 something, I just can’t see my self in my 30’s 10 years later working at 35/hr from 26/hr… no future and near impossible ownership.. The irony is this profession is akin to toilet paper.. sad :(( but true.

      Pharmacy set me back a few years but experience is experience. After exams, my next step is to increase exposure to all future pharm students on forums, talks etc. so they don’t blunder like I did and leave this sinking (actually sunken) ship…

      Another bright ECP pharmacist leaving… part droves… and you can’t blame us… we ave truly been forsaken…

      • Jarrod McMaugh

        Are you really an ECP?

        your view point really seems to be from someone who is imagining what it must be like for an ECP, rather than someone who is an ECP…. and the use of “bright” is very peculiar – I don’t know any ECPs who refer to themselves or their colleagues this way. It’s a term used by established people to describe the next generation.

      • Notachemist

        BlinkyBill I hope that income is not your sole motivation to become a doctor. If you undertake a medical degree you will have not just the four years of post grad study but at least another four years (and probably longer) on top of that to obtain your fellowship so that you can practice in the area you choose to specialise including general practice. There is a squeeze on the various medical training pathways which make it a very competitive process and thus you may be delayed even further in reaching your goal. You are not likely to have a high income until you are well into your thirties. Medicine is also restricted by the MBS with respect to earning capacity and especially in general practice with the popularity of bulk billing. BlinkyBill if you really want to make money head for the corporate sector and private business which is not so strictly controlled by the government. To be honest your words above do not convey the mindset of a caring health professional and you may be better to leave this sector altogether.
        By the way I am not trying to be provocative, this is genuine advice (albeit you did not ask for this advice).

  2. Wages are pathetic

    Umm price disclosure may affect wages.. but MORE LIKELY discounting. Perhaps Terry white should go back to its premium brand instead of gifting $10 a script in discounts and pay their staff more.

    • chris

      discount pharmacy chains are just getting stronger and stronger and their business model is about price, price and price. the others are stuffed in the long term, sad but true.

      • Ted

        And the Guild and PSA just rabbit on about how the future is ‘professional services’ when the discounters are running rampant with their ‘no-service’ model. What a joke.

        • chris

          I have to say that my wife gets fantastic service from her local big discounter whenever she asks for issue dealing with out young children. The smaller pharmacy just cannot compete and no wonder most of the guild members are anxious as they are the ones that have seen their goodwills go down the toilet. Perhaps it is a kind of karma for under paying their resources over the decades.

  3. Red Pill

    The guild has been incapable of negotiating a respectable wage for community pharmacists for well over 2 agreements now spanning 10 years. In any democratic system, if the people you represent are unhappy with your performance, you should step down and call for a referendum.

    The guild has failed 80% of pharmacists it is meant to be negotiating for. Time to step down or share the table with other representative bodies.

    #pharmacists4referendum2017 ✌

    • BlinkyBill

      Tbh for this to happen you need a strong union with unity and cohesion. The only way I see this happening is when westfarmers/woollies come into the picture… or the Government intevening… which is highly unlikely..
      That’s when you will see the useless, greedy and gutless guild obselete :b

      • Anthony Tassone


        I have heard this argument a number of times, that deregulation of pharmacy ownership and allowing supermarkets to enter and negotiation with an employee union will deliver better remuneration.

        I am puzzled by this logic in some respects when we look at the very recent history of Coles and the Shop, Distributed Allied Employees (SDA) union – who represents shop and retail assistants agreements.

        Various links to recent articles below that demonstrate that a Coles/SDA enterprise agreement established was found to not pass the ‘better off overall test’ when compared to the Award, and that workers were worse off.

        “Sold out, quarter of a million workers underpaid in union deals” – Fairfax media: 30/8/2016

        “Coles knew more than half its workers were underpaid” – Fairfax media: 20/8/2016

        “Coles refuses to pay higher penalty rates, rebuffs Fair Work” – Fairfax media: 9/6/2016

        This is not a statement around whether the current base award rate is appropriate or not – as it is the subject of an upcoming Work Value case that has been put up by APESMA to Fair Work.

        The point is, that the recent history of Coles in negotiating agreements with an employee union has not delivered a favorable outcome for the employees.

        Anthony Tassone
        President, Pharmacy Guild of Australia (Victoria Branch)

        • BlinkyBill


          I am puzzled by what you are puzzled by? Any organisation that represents the vast majority of non-owner pharmacists will vouch and negotiate better terms and conditions for pharmacists. Period.

          Currently, we do not have anyone representing us. What we have is an outdated monarch-like organisation – the guild – that not only is out of touch with the vast majority of pharmacists but literally serves the pockets of the tiny minority – pharmacy owners.

          The guild model may have worked a few decades ago, when opening a viable pharmacy was attainable for regular pharmacists who wanted it and conditions were better overall. The current climate of Government cuts and monopoly of banners and discount chains make this dream for young pharmacists like I, near impossible. Therefore, as a non-owner working pharmacist I would at least expect that remuneration and working conditions to reflect the years and tears of this degree.

          The last time I looked Anthony, the pay and conditions for supermarket shop assistants are pretty much akin to the appalling pharmacist’s conditions now. Not bad pay for someone who didn’t put in 5 years of study, no HECS debts, no loss of pay studying and no responsibility of over dosing someone… I would gladly work at Coles/woollies/Aldi five years ago knowing what I know now and who knows perhaps owned a house and be a manager by now with no HECS debts and life/death responsibilities…

          If west farmers and woollies came into the picture with a pharmacy union it definitely can’t get dismally worse than it is now. It will only get better, otherwise there will be no pharmacists left and entry into the course would have to plummet to perhaps even 50-60 in universities to attract future pharmacists… basically the end of the profession as we know it.. I mean who in their right mind is willing to study 5 years with such life/death responsibilities for $27-8 (VIC) an hour when you can be a shop assistant, cleaner, security guard etc. and get the same rate?? Oh yeah and no debt!

          And just in case you are oblivious like Queen Marie Antoinette during the French revolution who said “Qu’ils mangent dela brioche” roughly meaning let them eat cake when people were screaming for bread due to hunger, do a little research about the appalling discontent of pharmacists. Come out of your guild like palace, and walk among the vast majority of dire coalface pharmacist’s lives and conditions and understand why there is a momentum of mass exodus of pharmacists leaving the profession.

          Red pill is right, a revolution is stirring Anthony, it’s just a matter of time till the monarch-like guild will be obsolete where supermarkets and pharmacist unions will herald a new age in pharmacy with better and promising conditions. Because so far, the Guild has forsaken us (and the profession as whole) leaving us to spiral into a bottomless abyss of despair and pain for greed and self interests.

        • JimT

          If deregulation occurs big business will take on the profitable OTC sector and will then say to Govt. you have to pay us a lot more to handle the PBS otherwise do it yourselves…….Hmmmm wonder what it would be like having to go to State hospital pharmacies for our scripts, and then the State and Federal Health Depts. arguing about funding………..and to boot hospital pharmacists get paid better anyway….

    • Anthony Tassone

      Red Pill

      Just to pick up on your point about ‘if the people you represent are unhappy with your performance, you should step down and call for a referendum.”

      The Pharmacy Guild represents owners of community pharmacies, and negotiates Community Pharmacy Agreements with the Australian Government as it is deemed the representative body of approved pharmacists (in this context it is PBS approved community pharmacies) and this is referenced under the National Health Act 1953 98BAA (link to the legislation below)


      Community pharmacy agreements are a procurement of services by the Australian government on behalf of the Australian taxpayer which include the distribution of PBS approved medicines through the community pharmacy network and a range of medication management programs delivered through community pharmacy.

      Regarding pharmacist remuneration and the award rate, this is not negotiated directly by the Guild (and is not part of the Community Pharmacy Agreements). This is determined by the independent umpire (independent of government) the Fair Work Commission.

      Granted, outcomes from community pharmacy agreements and other funding sources can have an impact on pharmacist remuneration and the general business environment of the community pharmacy sector, but just to clarify the Guild does not negotiate pharmacist award rate remuneration at the time of the Community Pharmacy Agreements or otherwise.

      Those who the Guild represents, community pharmacy owners, express their satisfaction with the performance of their representative body in various ways, most notably through their decision to renew membership.

      The Pharmacy Guild has done and continues to represent an absolute majority of community pharmacy owners.

      I hope that provides some clarification.

      Kind Regards
      Anthony Tassone
      President, Pharmacy Guild of Australia (Victoria Branch)

      • Andrew

        Anthony, I’d like to call you out on the following;

        “Those who the Guild represents, community pharmacy owners, express their satisfaction with the performance of their representative body in various ways, most notably through their decision to renew membership.”

        Can you comment on the proportion of Section 90 pharmacies signed on as Guild members ten years ago versus today? I suspect (actually, I know for sure) that the answer contradicts your assertion in this paragraph.

        Just food for thought.

        • Anthony Tassone

          Hello Andrew

          In my post I have stated ‘the Guild has done and continues to represent an absolute majority of community pharmacy owners’.

          The Oxford Dictionary definition of an ‘absolute majority’ is:
          “A majority over all rivals combined; more than half.”

          When I personally use this term, I use it in the context of constituting at least 75%. The Pharmacy Guild has at least 75% of community pharmacies as members.

          I do not have statistics from 10 years ago immediately accessible, however, it does not change my point from my initial post about the current representation that the Guild offers.

          Anthony Tassone
          President, Pharmacy Guild of Australia (Victoria Branch)

          • Andrew

            Thanks for the reply, Anthony.

            You didn’t address my point – perhaps I can help.

            Proportionally there are far fewer pharmacies/owners signed to Guild membership than there was a decade ago. In fact, the biggest chain with the biggest market share sees no use in joining.

            If renewed memberships is a marker of Guild success the reduction in members over the last decade should probably tell you something.

          • Anthony Tassone


            There can be a number of reasons why a particular group has chosen not to join the Guild as members.

            It’s best these matters aren’t discussed on a public forum, but rather offline. Drop me a line at: anthony.tassone@vic.guild.org.au

            Anthony Tassone
            President, Pharmacy Guild of Australia (Victoria Branch)

          • Mack

            The Guild has looked after itself, but not the members who pay its fees. That has always been true, more so now. That is why, as a pharmacy owner, I have never joined the Guild. It is not worth the large membership fee it charges. And I can certainly see why a large chain would not bother to join – they have done their sums on the worth of Guild membership too. Until the Guild becomes more militant in defence of all pharmacists, it will be an ivory tower of cosseted pen-pushers. – a luxury its members increasingly cannot afford.

      • United we stand

        So in a nut shell, Community pharmacy is an oligarchy run by the ruling elite, who have self appointed themselves as the gate-keepers of the entire PBS funding $$$, and the only body that gets to negotiate with the government. Under such a system, meritocracy is nothing but an academic pipe dream leading to nothing but an ocean of poverty and despair.

        The guild is always so quick to say they don’t control award rates, yet they fail to disclose the mountain of submissions they’ve made to the Fair Works Australia over the last few decades to keep the award at such an embarrassing level.

        I mean it’s been so low for so long, the owners of the last generation ignored it all together and paid pharmacists a decent wage. But those days are gone. The nice owners all retired or sold out to big discount chains and here we are.

        If we play the game with your rules, then we’ll always be the ones losing my friend. So we either don’t play and leave the profession OR change the rules all together. Here’s my take on it. A PBS approval should be given to a registered pharmacist NOT to a building! Location rules can stay. But you should pay the individual pharmacist that dispenses the prescription NOT someone who just happened to have a lot of cash and decided to open 12 stores across Australia and spends maybe 20 minutes a day in them!

        Is this really such a radical idea? I don’t know. The doctors are doing this just fine. So how about it?

  4. Guildman Sachs

    Do you ppl really wanna know how much Guild thinks you are worth? Here it is:
    On average to conduct a single Clinical intervention will take a pharmacist 10 minutes: that is 6-7 minutes to raise the issue with the patient, contact prescriber, discuss alternatives and implement changes, and finally write up the report on what you did to get paid. So how much on average do we get paid for 10 minutes of clinical work? $2.70
    So, to the great Pharmacy Guild of Australia, a pharmacist’s time is worth: $16.20/hour
    So next time you save someone’s life by preventing a fatal drug interaction, remember you’re worth less than a check out chick.

    • Anthony Tassone

      Guildman Sachs

      The amount paid per clinical intervention can fluctuate from claim period to claim period (and by pharmacy) as it is dependent on the number of claims for that given period from pharmacies and dependent on that pharmacies script volume. This is due to the funding for clinical interventions coming from a fixed pool of funds under the current funding.

      I’m not wanting to trivialise your point, but just trying to demonstrate there are some limitations and extra considerations to the comparison you’re drawing.

      Anthony Tassone
      President, Pharmacy Guild of Australia (Victoria Branch)

      • Minem

        Hi Anthony,

        I work as a retail/hospital pharmacist, and I have noticed that the amount of medication related admissions are significant.
        I think funding of clinical intervention in the retail setting should be reviewed.
        1- Clinical intervention is a core pharmacist activity.
        2- There is an opportunity cost to forgoing clinical interventions. Which would be either hospital admission, or more GP visits and both will cost more than providing these interventions.
        3- There is a significant amount of medication related hospital admissions.
        4- There is a significant weight of public trust on the pharmacist role in the healthcare system.Provided that pharmacists are the frontline healthcare members that encounter patients who seek professional advice.

        a- enhance the education programs for retail pharmacist.
        b- may be increase the funding for medication reviews, and increase the control measures that regulate this activity.
        c-may be many more.

        Anthony, I understand that there are numerous forces that affect the pharmacy industry in Australia. In which the government is a major player as well as the guild. I think that there are many things that can be done to improve the current situation. Honestly, I started to believe that down grading pharmacist is a strategy of the government, the guild and the major pharmacy chains in Australia.

        • Anthony Tassone

          Hello Minem

          Thank you for your reply.

          Absolutely agree with you that medication related hospital admissions are a significant expense to the health system and pharmacists can play a key role.

          The Australian Health Quality Safety Commission in a 2013 study estimated that there were 230,000 hospital admissions each year that were medicine related costing the system $1.2 billion. Most of these were thought to be preventable. This is up from 180,000 incidents at a cost of $660 million in a previous 2008 study.

          One of the three priority areas announced by Health Minister Sussan Ley at the Pharmacy Guild’s APP conference in March this year was to support improved continuity in the management of patients’ medications through community pharmacy when they are discharged from hospital.

          Regarding your points about clinical interventions and a review of remuneration of them and associated medication management programs, there is a cost-effectiveness analysis being conducted by the Department of Health on these 5CPA programs that have continued into the 6CPA.

          It is part of the 6CPA document itself (reference at the base of the table in Appendix B and in Clause 6.1.3).

          Clause 6.1.3 is copied and pasted below for your reference:

          “The Community Pharmacy Programmes set out in Appendix B will continue from 1 July 2015 until the Minister determines otherwise and will be subject to a cost-effectiveness assessment that will be subject to an independent health technology health assessment body (such as the Medical Services Advisory Committee or the PBAC) as determined by the Minister.”

          The full 6CPA document can be accessed via the below link:


          The outcomes of this cost-effectiveness assessment will provide guidance on the future funding of these programmes.

          I hope this has been of some assistance.

          Anthony Tassone
          President, Pharmacy Guild of Australia (Victoria Branch)

      • JimT

        sorry Anthony, but the few cents difference between different pay periods due to the structure of this model still only gives us a value circa $16-17 per hour…….still doesn’t cut it !!

      • Point made

        Anthony makes a good point. Funding is from a fixed pool. Interventions may be <$2.7 depending on volume claimed ($16/hr)

    • FedUpWithPharmacy

      Does it matter how much we get paid for clinical interventions? The money goes into the owner’s pocket anyway, not the pharmacist who conducted it. This also goes for MedsChecks etc. We do all the work, get paid peanuts while owners complain about paying high penalty rates for weekends.

  5. Adrian

    Supply verse demand. Cities are full of pharmacists who work for $25/hour. Country pharmacies looking for pharmacists paying $40/hour and can’t fill the position??

  6. Owner

    Very important to keep employee Pharmacists away from the negotiating table otherwise their renumeration and professional ethics will come into play and completely destroy the current model. Owners must continue to negotiate for the industry to externalise bad bargains for industry and professionals as a trade protectionist concessions.

  7. End of era

    The exodus began years ago.

    Pharmacy owners are doing fine and paying employees peanuts.

    As a former owner I earned circa 300k a year.

    Pharmacist employees should be pushing for deregulation of location rules- we may see an equitable distribution of income when there is no longer a two tier approach to pharmacist income.

    An ATO analysis of owner EBITDA as a percentage of all pharmacist income would shock employees and demonstrate the inequality .

    I’m sure some owners that bought themselves a job or set up in a non viable location are doing it tough . The other owners are raking it in for very little effort or risk ( despite protestation of taking a risk !) . Location rules have all but removed any risk. Negotiate a reasonable rent and sit back and watch the money flow .

    Owners are not bad people. I felt bad that I made more than 3 times the money my employee pharmacists made whilst working a couple days a week and managing . The system allows the inequality so better to be an owner.

    • JimT

      as an ex-owner, many pharmacist proprietors do buy themselves a job, but when you do the numbers you also need to allow for return on investment and separate that from “wages” to be fair to the discussion…..

  8. Kevin Hayward

    A once proud and powerful profession has now dwindled to the point of self consuming in fighting.

    Rather than squabbling amongst ourselves perhaps we should be venting our spleens towards the succession of inadequate policies of a succession of incapable health ministers.

    If recent health policy had been allowed to develop a model pharmaceutical care in keeping with contemporary needs, the pharmacy service could be saving health dollars, improving patient care and offering opportunity to pharmacists and incentive to pharmacy businesses.

    Health ministers have chosen instead to disinvest of our profession financially and morally, compromising the paradigm of an improved service. The divide and conquer strategy has as we can all see left us in a state of internal bickering, powerless and marginalised.


    • JimT

      ….and the very people we are all striving to help, the public, are worse off , personal health wise as well as health dollar spend wise……..

    • Apotheke

      A house divided will surely be defeated. That is a very apt description of Pharmacy practice in Australia in recent years. Owners gouging employees for their own profit as the Government gouges the profitability out of community Pharmacies and pockets the savings. This is a death spiral for Pharmacy owners except for a nimble few who are already moving to reduce their reliance on PBS income. This situation does not bode well for employee Pharmacists unless their is a radical shift in thinking on the part of the Department of Health and the Guild.

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