An update from Geoff March, President APESMA Pharmacists’ Division
We have seen recently a concerted campaign from employer groups led by the hospitality and restaurant industries to eliminate penalty rates from their Awards. Senator Xenophon also jumped on the band wagon, recently introducing a private members bill which would have the effect of exempting employers in the Hospitality and Retail industries from having to pay penalty rates under certain circumstances. Essentially a small business (fewer than 20 full time or full time equivalent employees) will be exempt from paying penalty rates unless the work performed consists of more:
(a) 38 hours of work in total during a week; or
(b) 10 hours of work during a 24 hour period.
“Retail” is not defined and the obvious area of concern for APESMA is Community Pharmacy. The legislation has been referred to the Senate Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Committee and submissions are due by September 20th. APESMA is writing a submission to the Committee on behalf of its members.
Interesting, but not unsurprisingly, the Pharmacy Guild, the employers representative organisation, supports the erosion of penalty rates. Previously they supported APESMA to ensure that community pharmacists did not get subsumed into a retail shop award during the award modernisation process a couple of years ago.
The Pharmacy Guild agreed with our case in that pharmacy was very different from retail and needed to have its own award in recognition of those profound differences. Now suddenly, it wants us to be just like these retail industries.
Recently the Pharmacy Guild made the astonishing claim that pharmacy owners are closing down their afterhours work solely because of penalty rates; no acknowledgment of the Guild negotiating an income freeze as part of the 5CPA (no indexation in PBS dispensing fees from 1 July 2010 to 30th June 2012 – dispensing fees produce around 70% of a pharmacy’s income), no mention of recent government changes to other fees, and no mention of rents that dominated the pharmacy press recently. Dispensing fees are designed to take in account of a number of business expenses related to the supply of PBS medications including wage costs, yet the Guild negotiated their way to a freeze understanding the future ramifications.
Obviously, APESMA will fight this attack on working conditions especially in light of falling wages being reported within the community pharmacy sector.