President’s Report November 2019 - 2020

Overview


The last twelve months continues the “tradition” of PPA being active and representing the interests of employee pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in the community pharmacy and the private hospital sectors. What has been pleasing for our pharmacy technicians is that we have changed the eligibility rules and technicians are now able to serve on the PPA Division’s Committee of Management.

Thanks to Chris Walton who left PA this year. When Chris become CEO of Professional Australia (PA), he also took over the vacant PPA Executive Officer position. We worked well together, testing a whole range of new initiatives with our Pharmacy Division, the results of which has been a significantly improved service for our members. We regularly tested him on Pharmacy’s acronyms which he passed with flying colours! We owe a debt of gratitude to Chris’ support over those years.

We welcome Jill McCabe as our new CEO for PA and look forward to working with her to advance the profession of pharmacy.

Our PA staff continue to give great support to PPA and our members. A special thanks to Paul Inglis, our Executive Officer, and Jacki Baulch, Principal Industrial Officer, for their dedication.

This report is a summary of a number of issues the Committee and staff worked through this year and designed to give you a taste of what we have been doing. Please contact PPA if you have any questions or comments. Indeed, feel free to place any comments on the PPA “The Community” page found in “The Collective” blog page.


Geoff March BPharm PhD
President, PPA
11/10/2020


Membership

Our membership covers pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in community pharmacies, private hospital pharmacies, pharmacies providing HMRs and RMMRs and pharmacists working in GP clinics, and in pharmaceutical manufacturing.

A union is only as strong as their members and the larger you are, the more other people will listen. Our “Keep Pharmacy Safe” campaign clearly demonstrates this (see below for an overview of this campaign). We have continued to increase our membership over the last twelve months with an 8% increase, even with the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Welcome to all our new members especially our pharmacy technician members, and thanks to our continuing members for their ongoing support.

A special thanks to members who complete the annual membership satisfaction survey. The data present valuable guidance to both our Committee and union staff in understanding what is important to you. I urge all members to take a few minutes to complete the next survey when it’s released. This year’s survey confirmed that the following issues are of major concern to our members, no matter their sector;

• Salaries not keeping pace with the market
• Lack of career path
• Lack of professional recognition
• De-professionalisation
• Unreasonable demands to work longer hours

We will continue to address these issues in the coming year.


Making it better – our campaigns

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic early this year posed many challenges to the way we live and practise as front line health professionals. We appreciate the role of pharmacists and all pharmacy staff has played in the incredibly high-pressured response to the pandemic. Thank you.

Throughout the pandemic your union has been campaigning for the rights of our members and advocating strongly to ensure your voice is heard on key issues. The following is a synopsis of the work PPA, and its members have been involved in:

• Early in the pandemic we partnered with The Kindness Pandemic to raise the profile of pharmacists on the front line of the pandemic, and for the public to show their support.

• We conducted a Covid-19 pharmacy survey completed by more than 640 pharmacists seeking your views on how the pandemic has affected pharmacy and what the key issues were. The survey highlighted the pressures pharmacists were facing and that 50% of pharmacists were considering leaving the profession. The media ran our findings across all networks, radio and newsprint.

• We conducted a Facebook Live event for pharmacy employees about their OHS&W rights at work with more than 600 people attending throughout the event. It demonstrated how important OHS&W was to pharmacist, and most interesting how little they knew about their rights.

• Members campaigned for Paid Pandemic Leave with more than 1000 people signing a Petition in support. Whilst we were unsuccessful getting paid leave, unions were successful in getting unpaid pandemic leave included in the Awards.

• Most recently we have been campaigning against the introduction of Covid-19 testing in pharmacy, following surveys that showed 80% of pharmacists were against it. Our campaign and advocacy is resulting in significant OHS safeguards being put in place in the QLD scheme and hopefully soon in the SA scheme, but there is much work to still do here. –Jump on line here to read more about it and sign up to our Keep Pharmacies Safe Campaign

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of occupational health and safety for pharmacy employees and how little they know about their rights to be safe at work. High workloads, working through breaks, being on your feet all day, infection control etc are all health and safety issues. With our Keep Pharmacies Safe campaign, Workplace health and safety will be our priority into the future. More to come on this in the new year!


Supporting your workplace

A really important message for all our members is that if you are facing a workplace or professional issue, please contact us first and without delay. Time is of the essence in many matters; for example, with unfair dismissals you have only 21 days from the day of your dismissal to lodge the documents. After 21 days, the
relevant authority will not consider the case. Remember, if in doubt, contact us, and if not in doubt, contact us just to make sure!

Special thanks to Jacki Baulch and her team for their hard work.

Individual member issues

National Legal and Industrial Staff dealt with 255 matters for pharmacists and pharmacy technician members over the last twelve months. This made up 14% of all Workplace and Advisory Service (WAS) team’s work. Pharmacy employees continue to have a higher proportion of individual employment issues than any other group of Professional Australia members (PA):

• 13% of cases raised for PPA members were Pharmacy Board notifications. PA very rarely has to assist members in other professionals with notifications regarding their performance to their respective regulatory bodies.

• PPA members are also more likely than other PA members to seek advice and representation on
     •leave entitlements (7%);
     •wage theft (7%); and
     •obtaining award, National Employment Standards and enterprise agreement entitlements
     (16%).

• PPA members are less likely than other PA members to seek advice and representation on employment contracts and redeployment or redundancy.

• PPA members are confronted with unfair dismissals in about the same proportions as the rest of PA members.

During the current COVID-19 pandemic PPA member s have been less likely than the rest of PAs membership to have been placed on JobSeeker, stood down, lost their jobs or had their pay cut than the rest of our members.

However, particularly at the start of the pandemic PPA members reported significant increases in work load, stress and aggressive patients.

It has been noticed over the last year or so that pharmacy employers are becoming less likely to resolve matters in discussions with the union. As a result, many of the matters raised by our members result in an increasing need for PA staff to resort to litigation in the Fair Work Commission or the Federal Court in order to ensure our PPA members to obtain their legal rights.


The Pharmacy Industry Award

Community pharmacy employees continue to be award reliant, unlike the majority of PA members. Thankfully our members who are employed in hospitals are more than likely to be covered by an enterprise agreement and are therefore not award reliant.

Over the last twelve months the various cases associated with the review of the Award have been completed and the new Pharmacy Industry Award was made May this year. The new Award includes;

• the outcome of our work value case;
• improving provisions for part-time workers;
• casual workers, and
• amended annualised salary provisions to name a few.

Many of the cases associated with this review took up a large amount of time and effort by PA staff to ensure that there were no reductions in our members entitlements.

Pandemic leave
PPA also filed a case in the Fair Work Commission seeking paid pandemic leave for employees covered by the Award. Unfortunately, after many days hearings and significant evidence put by PA including that of a leading epidemiologist, the Commission determined not to grant paid pandemic leave to pharmacy workers. PPA continues to monitor this situation and if there is any significant change we will apply once again to seek a reversal of the Commission’s position.

Most recently PPA sought and obtained an extension in the special measures allowing employees to take unpaid leave during the current pandemic until 29 March 2021. If these provisions had not been incorporated in to the Award employees could have been sacked for ’abandoning employment’ if they had to isolate because of COVID-19.

Enterprise Agreements
We have been working hard in the last few months with our HPS pharmacy technician members in their campaign to improve their working lives through a new Enterprise Agreement. Key issues technicians want to see improved are around higher pay, a new classification structure which provides for proper career paths, family friendly provisions such as paid parental leave and having a process to raise and address workload issues.

This year also saw the finalisation of a particularly hard-fought agreement for our Pharmacy members at the Mater Hospital in Queensland after months of industrial action. As always employers are playing hard ball when the enterprise agreements come up for renegotiation, but if workers are prepared to join our union, act collectively and fight for a fair outcome they can win better wages and conditions.

FWC Casuals Decision
The Federal Court upheld the decision of the FWC defining work that is regular, ongoing and permanent is not genuinely casual. We have hailed this decision as a win for all workers and have called out employers who have not switched long term casual workers with regular hours to permanent full and part-time work. Click here to find industry media around the FWC Casual decision.

Other issues
We are concerned of reports where the Pharmacy Board seems to be taking undue time to resolve some cases. We again stress the need for members to come to PPA first as commercial lawyers may not offer the best chance for a favourable outcome.

Another area of concern is intern underpayments with an estimated 50% may be earning less than the award rate.

Remuneration survey
The next online Pharmacy Remuneration survey is currently being finalised and will be ready for distribution in due course. I urge you to take the time to complete it. You are also encouraged to send the link to other pharmacists and technicians who may not be members. All data are very important to provide you a sound basis for understanding your workplace wages and conditions compared to your fellow pharmacists and technicians.


Membership communication

I encourage all members to take advantage of the various avenues for discussion to raise issues, comment and provide your personal experiences.

Please check out your personal member webpage for information on workplace issues, opportunities available to you to assist with your career development, access to your professional indemnity insurance details, pay, CPD and “my savings’ where you can get great discounts on services. I recommend you have a wander through your personal webpage to understand just what services and information is there for your benefit.

The Union established a new service called “The Collective” where we have set up a “My Community” discussion forum, “Professional Pharmacists Australia” which is open just for our pharmacy members. Feel free to use it to converse with the Committee and other PPA members. Of course, the PPA webpage, Facebook and emails will continue to help you keep up with the latest.

From our list of things-to-do …. we are updating our webpage in the next few months.

Professional Indemnity Insurance

PPA continued to offer access to Professional Indemnity Insurance to our members underwritten by one of Australia’s biggest insurers, Berkley Insurance that meets AHPRA requirements for employee pharmacists.

We are providing PI members with a quarterly update on issues that arise based on data provided by the Insurers. All members are urged to comply with the Guide for Good Dispensing at all times, and to follow the checking procedures imbedded in that Guide to reduce errors and potential harm to our patients even when you are busy. We suggest you reflect on your practice skills regularly.

If you need to inform the Insurer of a potential or actual issue, follow the guide found in your personal member webpage. If you are unsure of your situation please don’t hesitate to contact PPA.

We recommend members immediately contact PPA first if you get a notification from the Pharmacy Board.

By the way, as a member of PPA, you are covered for Journey Insurance. The Professionals Australia Journey Insurance policy provides cover for members who suffer injuries while travelling to and from work. More details on your personal member webpage.

Supporting your professional development - Ausmed CPD

Access to easy to use CPD was an issue members raised in our last membership survey. We approached an established a CPD supplier outside of the usual pharmacy channels, Ausmed. We were highly impressed by the underlying platform that supports the CPD product. It is simple to use, is logical and provides a great summary ready for submission to the Board at the end of the year. And you are not chained to just the Ausmed modules; you can easily record CPD from other providers in the platform. I urge you to take the time to understand the value of Ausmed because once you get it, you won’t go back to anything else!

Access your Ausmed platform through your personal member webpage - click on the “My Career” heading.

We Support Pharmacy Support Services

PPA continues to support the excellent work undertaken by the volunteers at PSS. It is a valuable service for all pharmacists in the profession. PSS has reported that their volunteers are contacted by pharmacists with workplace issues. If you have any workplace issues contact us first as, in some cases, there are legal limitations on the time that the issue can be addressed, as I have highlighted above.

PPA also joined other pharmacy organizations in successfully lobbying the Pharmacy Board to provide support to PSS.

PPA will continue the great work of PSS in coming years with the resigning of our MOU with PSS.

Engagement

PPA have met with PSA President and PSA CEO on a number of occasions to discuss issues relevant to pharmacy practice.

Vice-President, Carmel McCallum represented PPA at the APLF meetings throughout the year.

Committee member, Cardin Le attended PSS meetings as PPA’s representative.

I attended 7CPA consultation sessions held in December.

PPA submitted and responded to a number of reports, including the consultation survey regarding home medicines review (HMR), residential medication management reviews (RMMR) and quality use of medicines programs, and the Aged Care Royal Commission.

Committee member Bianca Piljic and staff from our student team attended this year’s NAPSA Congress.

PPA representatives have also met with SA Health officials, and QLD health officials and Health Minister staff over our Keep Pharmacy Safe campaign, and Senator Penny Wong where she thanked members for all their hard work during the pandemic and discussed the challenges they have faced.