Why do community pharmacists need an enterprise agreement?

Whilst hospital pharmacists in the ACT have secured commitments to improve their wages and conditions, there is still an ongoing battle to improve those of community pharmacy.

In recent years, pharmacist jobs have increased in responsibility and complexity. In addition to dispensing medicines, pharmacists provide vaccination services and health checks, yet their wages and conditions do not reflect their increasing role and importance to our health care system.

The Professional Pharmacists Australia (PPA) Community Pharmacists Employment and Remuneration Report 2016/17 found of greatest concern are the increasingly blurred lines between pharmacy and retail functions. Pharmacy chains such as Chemist Warehouse, Amcal and Terry White Chemists account for 65 per cent of pharmacy industry. These chains, operating under a retail model, are aimed at maximising sales and put profits over the responsible dispensing of medicines.

At ACT Health, through an enterprise bargaining process and threatened protected action, PPA members achieved “the right package of conditions” via commitments from the department and Health Minister.

Much like hospital pharmacy, PPA can achieve the right package of conditions for community pharmacy by negotiating an enterprise agreement with your employer.

In 2016, PPA successfully negotiated with National Pharmacy to protect their penalty rates. At the time, Sarah Andrews, PPA Lead negotiator said:

“[WE] are pleased that National Pharmacies decided to take its proposed cuts off the negotiating table, and this shows in the strong support from members for the final agreement…”

PPA members across National Pharmacies in Victoria and South Australia took protected stop-work action in an industry first. More than 100 employees in 53 stores across both states started their shifts an hour later than rostered to send a strong message to management

“Whilst it was regrettable that pharmacists had to take industrial action to get there, it does signal to people working in community pharmacy that it is possible to win protections to employment conditions when we work together,” said Ms Andrews.

Under the successfully negotiated enterprise bargaining agreement, pharmacists at National Pharmacy reported a mean base rate of $41.50 across all classifications compared to banner group pharmacies ($36.32) and discount pharmacies ($31.03) as well as protecting our members from the Fair Work Commission’s decision to cut Sunday penalty rates.

EPIC PHARMACY MEMBERS WILL BE AT THE NEGOTIATING TABLE LATER THIS MONTH AND WILL CONSIDER PROTECTED ACTION TO ENSURE A FAIR OUTCOME IS REACHED FOR ALL MEMBERS

Enterprise Agreements establish a firm commitment to minimum conditions for community pharmacists. Below, we answer some questions about these agreements:

What is an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA)?

Enterprise agreements are agreements made between employers and employees that contain terms and conditions of employment. They override the award and must be certified by the Fair Work Commission to be enforceable.  To be registered by the Fair Work Commission the majority of the employees who will be covered by the agreement must vote in favour of accepting it and the agreement must provide for terms and conditions of employment that are better off overall than the provisions of the award.

Do EBA’s exist in Pharmacy?

Yes, pharmacists working at National Pharmacies and HPS are covered by enterprise agreements.  The vast majority if pharmacists working in hospitals are also covered by enterprise agreements.

What are the benefits of EBAs?

The Pharmacy Industry Award provides a safety net of minimum pay rates and employment conditions for pharmacists across the entire community pharmacy sector. An EBA sits above the award and sets out terms and conditions for a single enterprise, which build upon the basic entitlements of the award. The advantage of enterprise agreements is that they can be tailored more precisely to the needs of the employer and employee in a specific enterprise.  This results in productivity improvements for the business and a fairer share of the financial benefits of these improvements to employees.

In the sixth National Pharmacies EBA (2016), PPA members were at the forefront of defending penalty rates for their work on the weekends. Their campaign received national media attention as they successfully defended their existing working conditions in a very difficult environment.

Read more about the campaign here.

Could I get an EBA at my work place?

If you want an enterprise agreement at your workplace you will need the approval of 51% of the workforce, or the support of your employer. The EBA must be compliant with the Fair Work Act and must be certified by the Fair Work Commission.

Enterprise agreements can be negotiated with a single employer or one or more employers co-operating as a single enterprise.

Can PPA help?

EBA’s can be negotiated for banner groups and partnerships, if they are single enterprises under the Fair Work Act. PPA will provide initial advice and ongoing support for all our members who wish to begin bargaining at their workplaces.

If you think an EBA might be useful in your workplace, contact us and get the support of our expert organisers to advise you how to negotiate with your employer.

Become a member and email us at:

contact@professionalpharmacists.com.au

MORE INFORMATION

2016/17 PPA Community Pharmacists Employment and Remuneration Report
Penalty rates protected at National Pharmacies
ACT Pharmacy Crisis treated, patient recovering
The importance of Enterprise Agreement coverage