Pharmacists protest penalty rate cuts

chemist-warehousePharmacists determined to protect their penalty rates are staging a national day of action targeting one of Australia’s largest pharmacy chains.

Protesters reportedly flocked to pharmacies on Sunday including Amcal, whose owner Sigma Healthcare has more than 1,200 independent and branded shops, representing about 20 per cent of the sector.

The pharmacists’ union, Professionals Australia, said its members were already among the lowest paid health workers and one of the few to have their rates cut. The Fair Work Commission in February approved a five percentage point wage cut for pharmacy workers, with further cuts to come in future years.

However, hundreds of pharmacies including Chemist Warehouse, MyChemist and UFS dispensaries have decided not to pass on the cuts to existing staff. Chris Walton, from Professionals Australia, wants to see the whole pharmacy sector follow suit.

“The union movement will use its collective 1.7 million members in a campaign to encourage consumers to only shop at pharmacies that pay penalty rates,” Walton said.

“This is one of the most important parts of the health workforce, where training is comparable with a doctor, yet they earn as little as $27 per hour, and now they’re having their penalty rates cut.”

Pharmacists earn less than nurses and its graduate wages are half that of dentistry, despite roughly the same length of training. The union is also running a case in the Fair Work Commission seeking a 30 per cent pay rise for pharmacists.

It argues the nature of pharmacy work – including health consultations with elderly patients, offering medication management advice and providing vaccinations – has changed significantly and is not reflected in wages.

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