Two weeks ago, our members at Epic Pharmacy began protected action against their employer in their fight for better wages and conditions in their workplace.
From the outset, Epic opposed a collective agreement, refusing regular pay rises and fair rates for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. Faced with possible protected action, Epic presented a proposal last December that blatantly ignored key issues of unequal pay for the same work, and safety concerns around workloads.
“Delegates have tried to deal fairly with management. After continued delays at the table, they decided through a ballot to take protected action. At this stage, industrial action is the only way we can put pressure on Epic to give us a fair deal,” said Gianni from Professional Pharmacists Australia.
It’s been nearly a year and Epic have refused to see reason. Management have failed to acknowledge the seriousness of our log of claims and the negotiation process. They have refused to bring anything meaningful to the table and have brought needless delays to the process in an effort to keep our members wages low.
We secured a minor win when Epic bowed to pressure and introduced a paid parental leave policy in early March this year. However, since that announcement negotiations have stalled once again.
As a result, after continued delays, members successfully voted to take protected action to force Epic to deal fairly at the negotiating table.
Disappointingly, Epic Pharmacy did not respond by listening to its employees. Instead, management chose to withhold our members’ pay, in a move designed to force them to back down and accept wage cuts.
In some cases, up to 80 per cent of pharmacists’ pay has been withheld!
This is unfair and wrong.
“Protected action was designed under the Fair Work Act to protect workers from such gross injustices. We have lodged a complaint to the Fair Work Commission to claim back the lost wages of our members,” said Jacki Baulch, Principal Industrial Officer at Professional Pharmacists Australia.
For pharmacists across the country, the current bargaining system is going backwards. The rules around EBAs are too restrictive, limiting a pharmacist’s bargaining power and protecting their employer’s interests.
Rogue employers like Epic Pharmacy abuse the system by stalling negotiations and freezing wages, or unfairly cutting wages to force their employees to submit to subpar pay and conditions.
“Our members have been bargaining with one hand tied behind their backs and Epic management have all the power. With the way our bargaining system works, Epic and our members are not on a level playing field. When the balance of power is weighed heavily to the boss, the workers suffer,” said Jacki.
Long before our members took protected action, they were divided on individual contracts and Epic had no desire to bargain for all employees. Solidarity played a key part as pharmacists and technicians stood together under their union, leaving Epic no choice but to bargain with PPA for a new enterprise agreement.
“It’s taken a while, but we have compelled management to listen to our members concerns. Taking protected action shows that our members refuse to keep being ignored. These overzealous cuts however prove the system as it stands is broken,” said Gianni.
In Australia, enterprise bargaining had been reduced to employers trying to minimise employee pay and conditions. It should be about them coming together to negotiate how to improve their workplace.
This system was intended to provide workers with fair wages and conditions in return for improved business productivity. What we’ve seen for a while now is soaring profits while wages are going nowhere.
The answer is to Change the Rules.
The aim: to secure jobs, fair pay rises and a fair go for all.