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Involve unions in pharmacy pay talks, PDA tells Welsh government

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association has levelled criticism at the Welsh government’s chosen approach to awarding a pay increase to community pharmacy teams, suggesting the union should have been involved in pay discussions.

Pharmacy contractors in Wales  will be given access to a share of an extra £3 million on top of the allocated 2022/23 community pharmacy funding, provided they give their employed staff a pay rise of at least 4%, chief pharmaceutical officer Andree Evans wrote in a letter last week.

However, the PDA voiced its “mixed reaction to the intervention being attempted by the Welsh government” in a statement released yesterday (September 14).

PDA Union director Paul Day told C+D today that he could not be “critical of [the Welsh government for] making sure that lower-paid pharmacy staff are paid better”.

However, he told C+D what the PDA believes the Welsh government should have done differently.


Trade unions should have been involved


“The best way for making sure that people get good rewards is trade unions talking to employers,” Mr Day stated.

Should the Welsh government wish improve pay for pharmacy employees, “the best thing to do is make sure employers work with trade unions”, as the PDA already does with Boots and Lloydspharmacy, he said.

In its statement, the PDA wrote that unions can “collectively bargain for permanent contractual improvements, which can include higher pay for all workers”.

It wants Welsh health minister Eluned Morgan “to bring together the government, employers, and independent trade unions from the sector on an ongoing basis [to] properly discuss and progress issues and opportunities relating to pay and conditions”.


Employers can opt out


Mr Day also noted that employers could choose to forgo access to the extra funding if they decide not to give their employees a raise.

The Welsh government’s measure might “prop up” a company’s profits if it has already given its staff a 4% raise, he added.

In his letter last week, Mr Evans warned that the government would work with NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership to check these pay increases have been applied by pharmacy owners and take back funding where rises have not been awarded.

The PDA further stated that Welsh government’s measure also “does not restrict those employers from unilaterally deciding to try and reduce other aspects of reward in consequence”.


Not all pharmacists will see equal raise


Mr Day also lamented that some pharmacists on higher salaries might only get a 1.3% pay hike through the Welsh government’s intervention.

Pharmacists in Wales with an annual salary over £45,839 may be awarded an increase lower than 4%, Mr Evans noted last week.

However, they will still get a top up of at least £1,400 “in line with the pay award for NHS staff”.

The PDA noted the NHS pay award – which was accepted by the government in July and will see some NHS employed staff get a 4% increase on their salary – was rejected by most of its NHS-employed members.


Government measures should not disrupt pay talk


“What the government mustn’t do is disrupt” negotiations on pay between pharmacy workers, employers and trade unions, Mr Day stated.

He fears that employers might refuse to agree on a pay raise for pharmacists in future pay talks after opting into the Welsh government’s scheme, which would be a marker of the government having “interfered in that relationship”.


Welsh government responds


Responding to the PDA’s statement, a Welsh government spokesperson told C+D that Wales was “the only part of the UK providing additional funding” to community pharmacy to help the sector “deal with the cost-of-living crisis”.

The government is “currently providing record levels of funding to the community pharmacy sector in Wales”, they added.

Ms Morgan’s decision to give community pharmacy staff “a fair, proportionate and equitable pay uplift” will see pharmacies benefitting from an extra £3m this year, the spokesperson said.


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