But the real cure for short-staffed counters is permanent wage increases
If we want to fix understaffing, we need fair wages for the important work Pharmacy Assistants and Registered Techs do everyday. After many discussions, UFCW 1518 and Sobeys have finally agreed to a $2/hr premium increase for ALL Sobeys Pharmacy members in BC.
“Competitive start rates are a good thing, don’t get me wrong,” says UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak, “They can certainly attract more resumes, but alone, they don’t guarantee long-term stability—and they don’t recognize the hard work of ALL employees who are working hard every day. To combat turnover, companies must promise their employees a good future so that they stay. And that means fair increases for all employees.”
Just as pharmacies will benefit from new staff, they also need seasoned staff with a wealth of experience and knowledge that they’ve built on the job.
During the pandemic, pharmacy assistants’ workload exploded, as the public rushed to get vaccines, leaving UFCW 1518 members who work behind the counter emotionally and physically burnt out.
The new temporary premium that UFCW 1518 negotiated is a good first step towards fairer pay for these highly specialized and educated members. All pharmacy assistants and regulated techs at Freshco/Chalo and Safeway stores are set to receive the $2/hr top-up starting January 1, for all work hours worked between that date and March 31, 2023.
“We are pleased to see that Sobeys has finally agreed to recognize ALL pharmacy members with this program—now we need to push for permanent increases for all employees at the bargaining table,” says Novak.
Bargaining is set to begin between UFCW 1518 and Sobeys later this month. All staff across departments—including the pharmacies—will band together to push for better working conditions and compensation. President Novak says that bargaining is the Pharmacy members’ big chance to make wage increases and other recruitment and retention initiatives permanent.
“This is where our members can win real and lasting protections,” says Novak. “I hope Sobeys sees that these efforts will ultimately benefit their customers, who depend heavily on our members for so many of their needs.”