Morrison government’s IR reforms will hurt pharmacy workers

Media Release | 11 December 2020

Professional Pharmacists Australia has warned that the Morrison government’s industrial relations (IR) reforms will hurt pharmacy workers by undermining their pay and conditions and by stripping away the rights of casual workers. 

Professionals Australia CEO Jill McCabe said it was extremely disappointing that after a year when unions worked extremely hard, together with business, workers and the community to try and find common ground where sensible change could be made in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Australian workers now faced attacks on their wages and conditions.
“When the Morrison government said it wanted to transcend the adversarial nature of industrial relations and adopt a more conciliatory approach, this was welcomed by our union.

“Unfortunately, the reforms unveiled this week undermine the existing rights and entitlements of Australian workers, including those, like pharmacy employees, who worked tirelessly on the front line during the pandemic delivering essential services to our community.”
Professional Pharmacists Australia President Dr Geoff March said the government’s Industrial Relations Omnibus Bill contains a range of troubling reforms.
“The government’s proposal to allow two-year agreements which are not required to comply with the Better Off Overall Test if the company can show such an agreement is economically necessary, will simply allow employers to cut wages and conditions, even permitting agreements which deliver conditions below the minimum award safety-net.”

Dr March said the union now expects some pharmacy owners who have previously been resistant to negotiating enterprise agreements with their employees to now be more likely to seek such an agreement.

“Pharmacy employees should be wary of any approach from their employer to enter into an enterprise agreement if this new Bill is passed, as their employer may be seeking to reduce their pay and conditions. 

“Pharmacy employees should immediately contact the union if they are confronted with a new enterprise agreement by their employer.”

Dr March was also concerned about the impact that the Morrison government’s IR reforms would have on casual and part time workers, who comprise a large component of the pharmacy workforce.
“The proposed laws take rights away from casuals, and allow employers to call workers who are actually working full time hours “casuals”, removing their entitlements to annual and sick leave. 

“While the government argues that casual workers will be able to become permanent after 12 months, the laws don’t provide workers with any way of enforcing this right.
“Frankly, rights aren’t worth much if they can’t be enforced.”

Dr March said that the Bill also introduces new part-time flexibility provisions to be available across 12 identified modern awards. One of those identified awards is the Pharmacy Industry Award.
“This new provision, if it is passed, will enable employers to only pay part time employees who work overtime at their normal hourly rate time instead of the current award requirement for them to be paid at overtime rates.”

Professionals Australia CEO Jill McCabe said that at a time of economic downturn, the government’s IR reforms were completely counterproductive.

“The fact we are still facing tough economic times where the need to increase consumer spending is paramount to recovery, yet the government is proposing laws which will result in workers having less money in their pockets to spend, is simply nonsensical.

“Professional Pharmacists Australia will not accept proposed changes that leave pharmacy employees worse off and we will be actively opposing any attempts to water down workplace rights.”

“We will be working with the ACTU and other unions to have this Bill rejected by parliament” Ms McCabe said.

Media contact: Darren Rodrigo 0414 783 405