Sigma, PPA penalty rates battle

Amcal PharmacyProfessional Pharmacist Australia and Sigma Healthcare, including Amcal are currently in a standoff over penalty rates.

The union has held a National Day of Action last 6 August to counter the implementation of the Government regarding penalty rates in the pharmacy industry.

They aim to protect the penalty rates of Australian pharmacists who are amongst the lowest paid health professionals in the country.

Professionals Australia CEO Chris Walton said MyChemist, Chemist Warehouse, UFS Dispensaries and several independent pharmacies didn’t acknowledge the latest decision of the Fair Work Commission on penalty rates.

“We want to see the whole sector move to protect the penalty rates of their existing and future staff and 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.

However, Sigma Healthcare said they are appalled with the recent action of the union against pharmacies like Amcal.

“Sigma is very disappointed with the unprofessional and inappropriate action taken by the PPA in targeting certain Amcal pharmacies, including the distribution of false and misleading material,” according to Sigma Healthcare statement.

For Walton, a university degree and the importance of pharmacists in the industries seems to be not enough since they are still one of the lowest paid employees in Australia.

“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,” Walton added.

Sigma has announced that they have taken action on the matter and the pharmaceutical company has begun “investigating all appropriate courses of action, including legal avenues, on behalf of Sigma and our members. The campaign by the PPA was not based on facts and was intimidating for customers and the very people they purport to represent.”

PPA has also filed a case to the Fair Work Commission to rectify the low rates of pay in the sector. The Fair Pay for Pharmacists case proposes to raise the pay of professional community pharmacists by 30 per cent across the board.

“The role of pharmacist in our health system has increased over the years to include health consultations, vaccinations and script management – particularly for older people and the rising population with chronic conditions. Pay has not increased to reflect that change,” said Walton.

“As [pharmacists] go through their career it doesn’t get much better with entitlements of $901.30 per week when they are fully registered to practice, which is less than a graduate nurse.”

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