The Pharmacy Chick

Flying the coup in retail

Human labor conundrum

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 6:59 pm on Sunday, April 28, 2013

I think humans are the master of their own demise.  Pharmacy Chick is an angry pharmacist..but “Angry Pharmacist” is taken so  PC I will stay.  Some months back my company announced yet another round of labor cuts….right after they sent out glowing notices of how awesome we were doing….meeting all my sales goals…having a 4% gain for the year when most businesses were tanking.  I decided to answer back in a very small way.  I quit shopping at the company that I work for.  Yea, I suppose for some people that is sacrilegious but for me, as a CONSUMER, if I dont like a company I dont shop there.  It just happens that I work there.

This nation has a ton of unemployed and under-employed people.  People are screaming for job creators.  But I can tell you this.  Industry does not want to create jobs.  Jobs are for humans…humans are labor…and labor is their #1 controllable expense.  They want to LIMIT jobs to create more profit.  Say you work for United Twaddlers and Widgets.   If you are the company president with a bunch of shareholders to please with dividends, you want to make as many Twaddlers and Widgets as you can as cheaply as possible. If that means automation, and less humans, they will jump on it like frog off a rock.

We have seen this all over.  People dont make cars..robots do.  Checkers don’t ring you out at grocery stores,  “Self Check Out” stations do.  You buy your bus tickets at a kiosk.  You check in  for your flight at a kiosk.  Kiosks aren’t paid, dont need lunches or breaks and aren’t subject to labor laws, need health insurance or injure themselves on the job.  This is what companies seem to think is their future…NO LABOR.

There is one small problem with this frame of thought….Every company is making SOMETHING they want to sell.  Twaddlers and Widgets needs to sell their inventory to make any money.  Grocery stores need to sell groceries etc etc etc…

Who buys stuff?  WE DO!!  Humans with money….money they get only by having a job….WE buy the widgets, the twaddlers, the groceries, the plane tickets….all the stuff that industry wants to make without any humans around anymore.  You cannot make consumables without considering that customers must have money to buy them!!

On my own personal small level…I am in charge of 5 people…myself included. 3 of the people are techs.  They are valuable to me and I care for them.  The company doesn’t care about them one bit.  Each week I write a schedule that  flexes…Flex labor is what we call it.  We have to monitor script count every day to meet certain goals.  If we fall short of daily projections,  people go home. It bothers me that some weeks my very valuable staff have fewer hours than they need to pay their bills because we didn’t meet the script count.

Rent doesnt flex.  Car payments dont flex.  My part time tech told me over the weekend he loves working for me but he cannot afford these flex hours.  He needs a paycheck that is not only regular but MORE. I told him I understand.  he knows the ugly position I am in.  Its black and white. He sees the labor chart posted in the pharmacy.  X scrips =Y hours. ONly now its X scripts =Y-4 less hours.

What does that mean?  To customers it means you will wait longer for your prescriptions.  We already work at our safety limits.  We are at the “angle of repose” when it comes to safety..and if you dont know what that is…look it up and it will make sense. Its similar to a “tipping point”.

My partner and I donate labor hours so that our techs get more. We donate our time so that the store opens on time because they feel its appropriate to schedule your labor hours for only the time you are OPEN. They consider it wasteful to schedule somebody early.  Ever try to open a business at 9 am by arriving at 859?  doesn’t work….We have 4 computers to launch, a cash pan to retrieve, an order that is delivered before we open, and a queue that is often loaded to triple digits full of scripts.

When I started working for this company the pharmacy was open 58 hours a week and we had 2 pharmacists and 2 techs.  We are now at 78 hours a week with 2 pharmacists and 2.25 techs.

I am labor. Their number # 1 controllable expense.  Fine.  But I control the shrinking dollars I have left after my bills are paid and they wont be going back into MY store till anymore.

15 Comments »

Comment by murgatr

April 29, 2013 @ 3:42 am

Loyalty means nothing to inflexible management. You are in charge of your own destiny & have the right to spend your hard earned $$ where you want to, not obligated to.

murgatr
Pharm.Tech. RDC’06

Comment by Don

April 29, 2013 @ 4:32 am

It’s a start.

Good for you.

Kinda sucks you can’t all leave and start your own pharmacy and do it properly. I’m surprised that the death toll from errors isn’t higher already. It’s only a matter of time until someone dies. I’d be building a paper trail now.

Sounds like you need a union or something to all stand together and say ‘enough’

Peace!

Comment by Pharmaciststeve

April 29, 2013 @ 4:40 am

I recently blogged about the very similar issue
http://www.pharmaciststeve.com/?p=3452
Retail sales down for NINE MONTHS IN A ROW..
Part of that has to be job insecurity… the lowest job participation rate for decades.. and with the coming mandatory healthcare costs by the employer with having an employee with 30+ hrs/wk.. how many jobs will only be part time.. how many of these part time jobs will one person have to have to make ends meet?
Maybe it is time for a resurgence of the co-op businesses concept..

Comment by Pharmaciststeve

April 29, 2013 @ 4:46 am

@Don.. it is already estimated that community pharmacy KILLS 9000 people annually and harms TEN TIMES that many.. but the corporations.. throw money at these people and get them to sign non-disclosure agreements and bury the “adverse advent” in the corporate archives..never to be heard/seen from again.

Only 17 BOP’s require a permit holder to report “serious mistakes” and the permit holder gets to decide what is a serious enough mistake to make a report..

Typically, we only hear about those.. where people have died and the survivors.. refuse to settle and take the corporation to court.

It is amazing the “silence” that a few hundred thousand will buy…

Comment by Pharmacy Mike

April 29, 2013 @ 6:11 pm

You’ve touched on something that should make clear sense to everyone, but for some reason doesn’t.

In order to sell more product, you need a population with as much disposable income as possible. These corporations aren’t really about growing the business anymore. They’re about strangling every last percent they can out of the already existing profit.

If I want to sell 100 widgets, does it make sense to try to sell those widgets to a population in which only 10 people can afford them. Wouldn’t I sell more widgets if I sold them to a population where 100 people could afford them?

Increasing your buyer base is bar far the easiest way to grow your business, but that means making an initial investment. That means that you might actually need a few negative quarters in order to eventually have a higher peak profit.

Shareholders don’t understand this concept. That’s why huge corporations like Facebook, Google, and Apple can have all this doom and gloom talk about them. Have you ever read some of the financial news about Apple lately? They’re asking if Apple will survive due to falling share prices.

Will they survive???? Apple sold like 50 million iPhones alone last quarter. Nothing is ever good enough for these people. It’s ridiculous.

If you’re company made a $500-million profit last year and is only on track to make a $450-million profit this year, the shareholders will be looking to make heads roll for the falling profit margin. Nevermind the fact that they made $450-MILLION!!!!

Job creators my ass.

Comment by Jason

April 29, 2013 @ 6:53 pm

Like you, I would do almost anything to make sure no one in my pharmacy lost hours due to sales issues. In my mind, it was a matter of integrity. You schedule someone – they arrange their life to meet that schedule – then you “take away” some of those scheduled hours. It’s wrong. Their hours are, in my opinion, part of the cost of doing business and should be protected and delivered as promised.

Thankfully I encountered some management who actually understood this and supported my stand.

I feel your pain! Thanks for sharing.

Comment by Texas Pharmacy Chica

April 30, 2013 @ 7:08 am

In effect, we, the pharmacists, are part of the problem. We feel obligated to have the pharmacy ready to open at 9, but we are there at 8:45 to get ready. Every day of the week, a pharmacist puts in at least 15 minutes of unpaid labor. That is 1 hr and 45 minutes a week, which should be paid, but we are wimps who do not play by the rules AT all when it comes to labor laws. Think about it. At 8:50 you have a duuude waving a gun at you demanding drugs and you hand them over as requested since all training videos say that is the safest. Next, investigation. What were you doing in the pharmacy, with the alarm already shut off when your shift did not start for another 10 minutes? Are you in cahoots with the dude? Your company won’t hesitate to fire you for improper conduct.

Or you are moving a box of filed prescriptions when you trip and the box lands on your foot, breaking your toes. You need to go to the ER and call over the store manager to call your shift supervisor to find someone. You get 4 calls while in the ER from the shift supervisor demanding you return to your shift because the float pool is non-existent and she is too lazy to call all the pharmacists who are off to see if any of them would mind cancelling all their plans and drive 30 miles to your store to cover your shift until they have to leave for their own shift at their own stores. Now you have to be out for 2-3 weeks. No workman’s comp for you: You were technically not at work yet. Yes, it happened on the premises, but you WERE NOT AT WORK. Your sick and vacation days are all gone in one fell swoop. You had a non-refundable trip to Cancun already booked for June? Try ask for time-off-without-pay, but they are not counting on you ever ASKING for that and won’t have anyone available to cover if you do.

I agree with you: I want to serve my patients and have the pharmacy open at 9, but if I don’t get paid for that, then the gate will be lifted at 9 and the computers will be ready to go by 9:15. I did the 15 minute thing for years, but once I made the above realization, I did not bother anymore. I can’t. I have a family. Those 15 minutes could cost me everything. An industry that has to rely on the employees volunteer 2 hours each week is not a viable industry. (And I still have not added in cost of continuing education, licensing and malpractice insurance)

Comment by Jason DeVillains

April 30, 2013 @ 4:25 pm

“Industry does not want to create jobs.”

For those not replaced by robots, sure they do.. overseas, where they can find marginalized workers who will gladly work as indentured servants.. you know, like Bangladesh or Alabama. I agree, it’s a slippery slope not considering the “demand” side of unemployment.

But, I disagree with you that corporations do these things on behalf of their shareholders. That’s just an excuse many corporate leaders use to remove themselves from the loop of blame and responsibility.

I believe they do it selfishly, for bigger salaries, bigger bonuses, a greater “rep” amongst their colleagues, and for other financial perks.

It’s kind of you to care for your co-workers, and to donate your labor hours. But, as you probably already know, when you start to do things like that voluntarily, it soon becomes something “expected” and the situation continues to deteriorate.

At some point, you have to say “NO!”

Comment by Mickey Blue Eyes

May 1, 2013 @ 8:05 am

Unfortunately, the government does not want people to be employed. Employed people are self-sufficient people. Self-sufficient people have no need for a federal nanny welfare state.

With Obamacare, the plethora of intrusive expensive federal regulations, expanding welfare programs, higher taxes, and the rising cost of labor, businesses have to cut expenses.

There are days where I wonder why I should bother go to work to earn money to pay taxes. Based on what I’ve read about the low barrier to collect Social Security Disability, thanks to Obama, I am sure I would qualify. And with free Obamacare, free Obamaphone, food stamps, etc., etc., etc., I would likely do okay if I give up and join the majority of Americans sucking on the teat of the evil rich taxpayers.

I need you to continue working, PC, so you can pay for my eventual welfare check. Thank you.

Comment by Jason DeVillains

May 1, 2013 @ 3:22 pm

I am labor. Their number # 1 controllable expense.

Happy May Day.

Re: Mickey – I would likely do okay if I give up and join the majority of Americans sucking on the teat of the evil rich taxpayers.

You’re not reading the right things or are letting someone else do your thinking for you. What you describe is called “corporate” welfare.

Comment by bcmigal

May 3, 2013 @ 7:05 pm

I wish there were some “easy” fix to a problem that is epidemic in nature.
Just this morning, my lead tech was in tears because her hours were cut again. This is after she was seduced into transferring to our store. Another tech is forced to call other stores and beg for hours Now they feel betrayed and abandoned. Scripts are down due to mandatory mail order from Medco/ESI and from transfers to Part D preferred pharmacies. Decreased income also produces decreased discretionary spending. Here’s an interesting link:

http://wallstcheatsheet.com/stocks/can-cvs-compete-with-walgreen-in-this-different-arena.htm

Comment by Crazy RxMan

May 6, 2013 @ 11:53 pm

We have a similar situation at the Goofmart pharmacy I work for. Every WEEK new crap is coming down the line which means MORE work for the pharmacist and technicians but no mention is made of increasing tech hours or making anything easier to handle the extra workload.

We’re just expected to do more with less. The company somehow has money for remodels and MTM projects, etc., etc., but NO mention is made on how they expect us to do all the extra work and no money for extra tech hours.

Arrrggghhhhh!!!!

Comment by The Ole' Apothecary

May 12, 2013 @ 8:02 pm

How’s bayou, PC/ I’m thinking about re-entering the blogosphere. Love your stuff.

TOA

Comment by WarmSocks

May 16, 2013 @ 8:22 am

As someone who’s worked 5am-10pm while being paid for only eight hours (and was replaced by two people when I finally quit), I feel for you. I’d be inclined to reply to the memo asking for a clarification of priorities, making explicit that there is no way to do 250 hours worth of work with only 160 hours of labor.

If pharmacists are hourly employees, then if the store won’t pay you to work before opening, then you shouldn’t be working and patients will soon learn that means doors open at 9, but computers and registers aren’t ready until 9:15ish.

However, if pharmacists are salaried, then you’re not working off the clock because legally salaried employees don’t punch a timeclock; you get paid the same whether you work ninety hours or one during the week. Corporations lose lawsuits for confusing the issue. It’s quite common for management to make positions salaried specifically for the purpose of getting people to work off the clock.

Comment by paula

May 23, 2013 @ 11:56 am

and that’s why I don’t do things like use the self checkouts at stores, order things on line (I’ll shop on line, but then I call and order), get my maintanance meds via mail order or bank on line. Until there’s a discount for doing part of the work myself, it’s just a means of giving the company – any company – even more of my money than I already am. They want it, they have to put a *little* effort into getting it.

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