Five year contract — ‘trying to bring back WorkChoices’: ACTU

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Five year contract — ‘trying to bring back WorkChoices’: ACTU

The NSW Pharmacy Guild has been accused of trying to force pharmacy workers onto a five year ‘WorkChoices’ contract that would see them denied penalty rates and get a wage rise of just 1% a year.

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The NSW Pharmacy Guild has been accused of trying to force pharmacy workers onto a five year ‘WorkChoices’ contract that would see them denied penalty rates and get a wage rise of just 1% a year.
 
ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence described the attempt as ‘unethical’.
 
Currently, pharmacy assistants in NSW are covered by the Pharmacy Assistants (State) Award (NAPSA). From 1 January 2010, employees will be covered by the Modern Pharmacy Industry Award 2010, as part of the Federal Government’s plan to modernise the award system.
 
The modern award would bring pharmacy assistants in NSW in line with their counterparts in other States such as Victoria.
 
The modern award provides penalty rates for casual employees for work performed on early mornings, late nights, Saturdays, Sundays, or Public Holidays. Currently, in NSW only part-time and full-time employees receive the benefit of these penalty rates.
 
Unscrupulous’
 
‘The attempt by the NSW Pharmacy Guild to impose a five-year agreement on pharmacists is a stark example of unscrupulous employers who are trying to squeeze the last bitter drops out of the WorkChoices lemon before new laws come into operation,’ said Lawrence.
 
‘Some extreme elements of the business community — including the Pharmacy Guild — are also running misleading scare campaigns about award modernisation, including false claims about the impact on jobs.
 
‘This is unethical behaviour by employers that ignores the spirit of the new Fair Work laws, which encourage good faith collective bargaining and recognise the rights of workers to join and be represented by their union.’
 
Lawrence said the NSW Pharmacy Guild is pushing workers to approve the new job contract, the Multi-Business Agreement (MBA), which attempts to avoid paying improved benefits available under a new award which will soon apply to the industry.
 
Takes away entitlements’
 
The contract would also take away many current rights and entitlements for pharmacy workers, and allow employers to avoid obligations under the Fair Work laws which take effect from next month.
 
Chris Walton, the CEO of pharmacists' union, the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers, Australia (APESMA), said the Guild's proposed job contract would leave NSW pharmacists trailing behind their counterparts in Victoria.
 
He said they should vote no to the agreement, and seek professional advice about any attempts by their employer to alter their terms of employment so close to the introduction of a new award.
 
Gerard Dwyer, the NSW branch secretary of the Shop, Distributive & Allied Employees’ Association (SDA), said the NSW Pharmacy Guild is attempting to shield employers from having to pay their employees their legal entitlements from 1 January next year, in a clear attempt to prolong WorkChoices beyond this year.
 
Miserly 1% increase’
 
‘The NSW Pharmacy Guild’s proposal contains a miserly 1% wage increase each year of the five-year agreement and will largely benefit employers by denying pharmacy assistants appropriate penalty rates that they would have become entitled to from 1 January 2010, subject to transitional provisions currently being debated by Parliament,’ he said.
 
‘The Guild is misleading employees by telling them they will only be better off if they vote “yes” to the agreement.
 
‘In reality, employees are going to benefit from the award modernisation process unless this agreement is voted up by the majority of employees and approved by the Workplace Authority.
 
Deliberate and contemptuous’
 
‘The timing of the agreement is deliberate and contemptuous. It clearly denies employees access to the new laws which come into effect on 1 July 2009, which allow good faith collective bargaining and the right to be properly represented by their union’.
 
Dwyer said pharmacy assistants should rebuff the disdainful attempts by the NSW Pharmacy Guild to protect employers at their expense, and vote a resounding “No” to the agreement.’
 
He said the SDA has previously asked the Guild to enter into collective bargaining but it refused.
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