On Friday 14th December, the Fair Work Commission accepted some aspects of our work-value claim to increase wage rates under the Pharmacy Industry Award 2010 (Pharmacy Award). In effect the Commission says that pharmacists can have some increase in their pay however that increase does not fully compensate for the increased work and responsibility of modern pharmacists’ work.
In the claim, Professional Pharmacists Australia (PPA) argued that there has been an increase in the skills, knowledge and responsibilities of a pharmacist since a pharmacist’s value was last considered in 1998.
Overtime, a pharmacist’s work-value has increased with greater educational requirements, greater responsibilities and workload and yet pay has not kept up with change.
“It seems incomprehensible that such well trained and critical health professionals can be paid less than $50,000 per annum,” said Dr Geoff March, President Professional Pharmacists Australia (PPA).
Under the Fair Work Act 2009, minimum wages in a modern award can be varied by the Fair Work Commission where it is satisfied that its justified for work value reason.
Pharmacists are required to undertake a four-year degree, a one-year internship. Once qualified, pharmacists are now required to provide health consultations, vaccinations, asthma, diabetes, emergency contraception and more complex medicines to mention but a few.
The Commission, however, rejected part of our claim saying they were not satisfied with the evidence submitted beyond the anecdotal level.
The Commission said that changes in educational and registration requirements and work such as the introduction of QUM, which requires pharmacists to counsel and educate patients on the best and safe usage of medicines, has not constituted a fundamental change in a pharmacists’ workload, skills or level of experience or occurred after 1998.
The decision isn’t all doom and gloom. We have achieved a win against a system that is stacked against us.
Pharmacists will have access to some increase in pay, with the Commission satisfied there was an increase in work-value associated with the introduction of Home Medicine Reviews (HMRs), Residential Medication Management Reviews (RMMRs), inoculations, down-scheduling of medicines; absence from work certificates; emergency contraception; and a general increase in responsibility and accountability associated with documentation for programs introduced as part of the Community Pharmacy Agreements that warranted an increase to the Award rates.
“It won’t be in the order of what Professional Pharmacists Australia sought and what we firmly believe pharmacists are worth,” said Jacki Baulch, Principal Industrial Officer PPA.
“The Fair Work Commission requires us and the Pharmacy Guild to lodge submissions on the amount of increase that pharmacists should receive and how that should be incorporated into the current Award. PPA will lodge a submission to get every last cent that we can out of this decision, and we hope that the Guild will now support our submissions.”
Regardless of the win, the rules are broken! If pharmacists needed any more proof that the system is rigged against working people and needs to change, this case is it.
If pharmacists still cannot get the full pay-rise that they deserve despite the strength of the claim, no-one can!
WE NEED TO CHANGE THE RULES
“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,” said Chris Walton, CEO Professionals Australia
In an October speech, Sally McManus, Secretary Australia Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), said under the present enterprise-only bargaining system, “business owners are encouraged to undercut one another to compete on wage costs – to compete in a race to the bottom.”
In response to evidence given by a pharmacy owner, the Commission commented “where the workload of individual pharmacists might be characterised at excessive, it was generally the result of business decisions made by some pharmacy owners to artificially limit or reduce the number of staff to deal with cost and competitive pressures…”
If the current system continues the levels of appalling pay, the race to the bottom on wages will continue.
“While we continue to fight this case, pharmacists need to take matters into their own hands… if you need an argument for sector-wide bargaining, here it is,” said Dr March.
“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, PPA.” said Dr March.
- Pharmacy Pay decision proves the rules are broken for working pharmacists (Media release)
- Pharmacists’ work value case weighed up (AJP)
- Understanding Awards and Agreements
- ACTU push for industry bargaining increases pressure on Labor
- Improving wages and conditions for community pharmacy
- Pharmacists to integrated healthcare providers