MEDIA RELEASE | 17 December 2018
Pharmacy pay decision proves the rules are broken for working pharmacists
Professionals Pharmacists Australia today labelled a decision by the Fair Work Commission to reject key aspects of pharmacists’ bid for a pay rise as “proof the rules are broken for working people”.
Professionals Australia argued that pharmacists who undertake a 4-year degree plus 1-year internship and have greater responsibilities deserve to be paid more than award rate of $27 per hour.
“It seems incomprehensible that such well trained and critical health professionals can be paid less than $50,000 per annum,” said Geoff March, Professional Pharmacists Australia President.
Yet despite expert evidence from the University of Sydney, multiple witnesses outlining that the qualification has gone from 3 to 4 years plus significant additions to internships and, that pharmacists now deal with asthma, diabetes, wound management, sleep apnoea, and inoculations, emergency contraception and more complex medicines and patients, the decision provides no increase.
“If pharmacists can’t get a pay rise given the strength of this case, no one can under this system” said Chris Walton, CEO of Professionals Australia.
The case hinges on the argument that pharmacists “work value” has increased over time with greater responsibilities, educational requirements and workload; and yet pay has not kept up with change.
“The role of pharmacist in our health system has increased over the years to include health consultations, vaccinations and script management – particularly for older people and the rising population with chronic conditions.
“After pharmacists received a penalty rate cut, this decision is added insult. For pharmacists the current system means going backwards. Pay has not increased to reflect the change in their job and that’s what this case was all about. It’s extraordinary the system has ignored that fundamental reality.“We’ve been saying for some time that the rules are broken, but if you needed any more proof that the system is rigged against working people and needs to change, this case is it.
“This is one of the most important parts of the health workforce, where training is comparable with a doctor, yet pharmacists earn as little as $24 per hour. Pharmacists’ starting salaries are the lowest of all bachelor degree graduates, alongside artists and below every other health workforce.”
The Commission did acknowledge some increase in work value of pharmacists, and despite a 5-day hearing in May, has requested further submissions.
“We’ll go back into the Commission and fight for every cent we can get pharmacists through this case, given the Commission have recognised some increase in work value,” said Mr Walton.
The Commission has now requested that Professional Pharmacists Australia and the Guild provide submissions on how much the work value increases they have acknowledged are worth.
“This will mean that pharmacists will have access to some increase in pay, but it won’t be in the order of what Professional Pharmacists Australia sought and what we firmly believe pharmacists are worth,” said Jacki Baulch, PPA Industrial Officer.
“While we continue to fight this case, pharmacists need to take matters into their own hands. The election is not far off and pharmacists should vote to change the rule,” said Mr March.
“If you need an argument for sector-wide bargaining, here it is.”
Mr March called on the Guild to work with Professionals Pharmacists Australia to address the appalling levels of pay.
“It’s time we saw some industry leadership, where employers lift their vision and think about how we get skilled people into the sector and keep them here.
“The model of discount pharmacies running the show in a race to the bottom on wages will continue until the Pharmacy Guild comes to a sector wide agreement with workers through their union.”
Media contact: Tim O’Halloran 0409 059 617