Two major Australian chemist chains have chosen not to cut Sunday penalty rates for employees when a national wage drop comes into effect on 1 July.
The Fair Work Commission has approved a five percentage point wage cut for pharmacy workers, with further cuts to come.
But Chemist Warehouse and My Chemist have said they won’t be passing on the cut, announced by the commission in February, for current staff and those employed before 1 July.
Professionals Australia, which represents pharmacists, backed the move and called on all pharmacies including Terry White, Chemmart, Priceline and Amcal to reject the Fair Work Commission decision and stand up for their workforce.
Its chief executive, Chris Walton, said: “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.”
The group director of Chemist Warehouse, Damien Gance, said the chain knew staff were the greatest asset.
“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 in a statement on Wednesday. “As such, we will be grandfathering existing Sunday and public holiday penalties.”
Peter Strong, the CEO of the Council of Small Business Australia (Cosboa), has supported the decision by Chemist Warehouse and My Chemist not to cut Sunday penalty rates, saying some companies had already flagged they won’t be doing so.
“Good on them,” he told Guardian Australia. “I’m not surprised.There’s quite a few employers who’ve said they won’t pass [the cuts] on, while others have said they’ll be able to open on Sundays now, and there are some employers who will pass it on, no doubt.”
But he stressed many smaller businesses would likely cut Sunday penalty rates on 1 July, given they often pay higher wages than their large rivals.
He said that, following this week’s 3.3% rise in the minimum wage, Coles and Woolworths would pay $64 less for a seven-hour shift on a Sunday than a small business, for instance.
Jos De Bruin, the CEO of Master Grocers Australia, said some of his members may want to follow Chemist Warehouse but most would likely need to cut Sunday penalty rates.
“We’re heavily labour service-support orientated; wages have absolutely killed us and they continue to,” he said. “Sunday penalty rates are absolutely draining the energy out of the owners of our businesses, so it’s a great relief for them if it gets through.”
Fast food, hospitality, retail and pharmacy workers will have their Sunday penalty rates drop five percentage points on 1 July.The full cuts of 25 to 50 percentage points will be delivered by 2019 for some workers and 2020 for others.
In December, Chemist Warehouse was ordered to back-pay more than $3.5m for mandatory online training workers had to do in their own time.Up to 5,976 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.
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