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Retail chains won’t cut penalty rates

chemist-warehouseChemist Warehouse and My Chemist Group won’t cut penalty rate payments for current staff and those employed before the Fair Work Commission’s  (FWC) wages drop comes into effect.

Following the FWC’s review of penalty rates, which approved a five percentage point wage cut for pharmacy workers with further cuts to come in future years, Chemist Warehouse group director Damien Gance said that while the pharmacy group welcomed the conclusion of the review, ‘it knows staff are its greatest asset’ and will be grandfathering existing Sunday and Public Holiday penalties.

“At Chemist Warehouse we always endeavour to do the right thing by our staff as we know their commitment, hard work and dedication is critical to our ongoing success,” he said. “That is why we have decided that all staff employed before the 1st of July 2017 will have their current penalty rates grandfathered.”

The decision will cover all employees at Chemist Warehouse and My Chemist pharmacies; retail assistants, dispensary technicians, pharmacists, pharmacy students and any other staff currently employed under the Pharmacy Industry Award 2010 and the General Retail Industry Award 2010 who begin work prior to July this year.

Existing penalty rate payments will apply on an ongoing basis for the term of current Chemist Warehouse and My Chemist staffs’ employment. Sunday and Public Holiday penalty rates will be honoured for these staff regardless of whether or not they are currently rostered to work on a Sunday or Public Holiday.

“Chemist Warehouse and My Chemist remain committed to give our valued employees certainty about their future remuneration following the decision laid down by the Fair Work Commission and we hope this announcement does so,” said Gance.

Gance said all Chemist Warehouse and My Chemist staff have been briefed on the decision at various meetings across the country this week.

Professionals Australia, which represents pharmacists, has backed the move but said the company had “sold out” its future workforce.

Professionals Australia chief executive Chris Walton said they supported protecting penalty rates but wanted to see more done to protect staff.

“It is simply not good enough for Chemist Warehouse to establish two classes of workers with future employees to be financially worse off than their peers,” he said.

He called on all pharmacies including Chemist Warehouse, Terry White, Chemmart, Priceline and Amcal to reject the Fair Work Commission decision and stand up for their workforce.

The decision comes after the retailer was ordered in December to back-pay more than $3.5 million for mandatory online training workers had to do in their own time.

Up to 5976 employees, almost two-thirds of Chemist Warehouse’s workforce, were back paid an average of $600 for the training after a Fair Work Ombudsman audit.

Ombudsman Natalie James said at the time if training was compulsory it was work.

“Young workers, in particular, are vulnerable to not realising this and giving their time for free,” she said in December.

Fast food, hospitality, retail and pharmacy workers will have their Sunday penalty rates drop five percentage points on July 1, before the full cuts of 25 to 50 percentage points will then be delivered by 2019 for some workers and 2020 for others.

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