Part of Professionals Australia

Professionals Australia slams attack on penalty rates in pharmacy

Professionals Australia is standing up to pharmacy owners backed by the pharmacy guild who are campaigning for existing penalty rates paid to pharmacists for extra work to be withdrawn.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

In a recent opinion piece, Friendly Pharmacies CEO Neil Retallick argued that pharmacists would be better off with a reduction of their penalty rates.

It is simply amazing to think some pharmacy owners want to take literally thousands of dollars from the lowest paid graduates of any profession in Australia, along with thousands of other pharmacists who routinely work after normal business hours.

Professionals Australia has consistently opposed any move to weaken penalty rates as this would directly cut the take home pay of many of our members and do great damage to the pharmacy profession.

As we said in our submission to the Australian Senate's inquiry into penalty rates last year:

As a matter of fundamental principle Professionals Australia totally opposes the draft legislation and strongly supports the payment of penalty rates to compensate employees for hours worked outside the standard Monday to Friday working week and for work generally performed during what could be termed “unsociable hours”. In this regard Professionals Australia considers that the maintenance of penalty rates is an extremely important national community standard.

People who go out of their way to work during unsociable hours to help our community deserve recognition and financial reward for helping our community, but yet again this is ignored by those more interested in converting fair wages for pharmacists into more profits for pharmacy owners.

You just have to seriously wonder if the people writing these opinion pieces are willing to give up their weekends for no increase in wages.

How can we possibly attract the best and brightest to the pharmacy profession if we tell them that their already low rates of pay will be slashed by this move.

Three years ago the Pharmacy Guild outlined a detailed plan to reduce the penalty rates available to pharmacists and it seems they are still trying.

Let's have a look at some examples of how the Guild's plan to slash penalty rates would significantly reduce the take home pay of professional pharmacists:

  • A pharmacist working 9am to 5pm from Tuesday to Saturday would have their pay cut by at least $2,612;
  • A first year intern who works on a Sunday from 9am to 5pm would have their pay cut by at least $4,076; and
  • A pharmacist working part time from 6pm to 9pm would have their pay cut by at least $8,164.

These are not trivial amounts – these are part of the regular pay pharmacists expect for often working outside normal business hours.

Many pharmacists have chosen to work these hours to help pay off the cost of their education or to save for a house or in the hope they too will own their own pharmacy.

And the principle of being able to work these hours for extra pay was overwhelmingly endorsed by the community by its outright rejection of the Howard Government's WorkChoices laws.

Some pharmacies are under financial pressure but cutting a professional pharmacist's wages in the search for profits is not the answer – it is yet another short-term tactic that will weaken the professional standing of pharmacists across the country.

Professionals Australia will not stand by while some pharmacy owners try to compete by driving already low wages, compounded by a culture of illegal underpayments, even lower by removing the legal right for pharmacists to earn penalty rates.

As Australia's pharmacy union we are the only organisation that is standing up for better pay for pharmacists as part of our plan to give the profession the respect and recognition it deserves.

Chris Walton

CEO, Professionals Australia


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