Exclusive: Walmart is cutting pharmacists’ wages and hours as the workload piles up

NEW YORK, Aug. 29 (Reuters) – Wal-Mart Inc. (WMT.N) has asked some of its 16,000 pharmacists across the United States to voluntarily accept pay cuts by reducing their hours in an effort to cut costs, a person familiar with the matter said. It’s to Reuters. .

The previously unreported cuts targeting high-paid pharmacists highlight new pressures at Wal-Mart pharmacies, where shoppers line up to buy weight-loss drugs that, despite their high price, are denting profits.

Walmart also agreed to pay $3.1 billion for its share in the opioid legal settlement, adding to its legal costs this year.

Shares of the retailer were up nearly 1% in afternoon trading Tuesday. The company’s shares are up 12% this year, far outpacing the 4.26% gain in the broader Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) over the same period, as it has become the retailer of choice for bargain-minded shoppers navigating blistering inflation.

The source told Reuters that at a meeting in May, Walmart’s senior field leadership asked 20 market leaders — managers of 10 to 15 stores in a given area — to start asking pharmacists to voluntarily reduce their base pay hours.

For example, a pharmacist could move from an 80-hour pay period for two weeks to a pay period of 64 or 72 hours, said the source, who attended the meeting and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The market leaders who attended the meeting represented Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana, the person said, though the move was presented as a nationwide move.

Leaders have been asked to start hiring pharmacists at lower base salaries, the source said, adding that the moves are being spearheaded by Davey LaVergne, Walmart’s vice president of health and wellness.

On average, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retail chain pays pharmacists more than $140,000 annually, excluding bonuses and incentives, according to Wal-Mart.

And Wal-Mart confirmed to Reuters that it is working to reduce the number of hours it was offering to some pharmacists, noting the decrease in demand for medicines during the summer and the pharmacists’ requests to achieve a better balance between work and life.

A person waits at a Walmart pharmacy in West Haven, Connecticut, US, February 17, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File photo Obtain licensing rights

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Marilee McInnes said the company was “committed to creating a great place to work” through work-life balance and competitive wages, and was hiring pharmacists as demand for their services grew.

And earlier this year, Walmart reduced its pharmacy hours by two hours in more than 4,500 US stores, amid a shortage of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians that began during the pandemic.

Michael Hogg, CEO of the American Society of Pharmacists in Washington, said there is no data to support the assertion that drug demand is lower during the summer and that pharmacists need fewer hours to fill prescriptions.

Shortage of pharmacy technicians

Hogg said the reason drug stores like Wal-Mart are cutting pharmacists’ hours is because of a shortage of pharmacy technicians. Technicians handle tasks such as counting pills, answering phones and stocking shelves, enabling pharmacists to focus on filling prescriptions. But technicians do not have pharmacy degrees and are paid less than pharmacists.

According to a study by the Pharmacy Workforce Center released in May, nearly 80% of respondents who work in pharmacy chains consider the shortage of technicians severe or very severe.

Meanwhile, the growing popularity of diabetes medications, which have become popular weight-loss drugs, has increased workloads. In the most recent quarter ended July 31, Walmart said that drugs like Ozempic boosted health and wellness sales by high percentages, but also led to lower profit margins.

The company does not generate revenue from its 5,000 pharmacies, most of which are in rural areas. Pharmacy sales fall under the company’s health and wellness business, which accounted for 11% of Walmart’s total U.S. revenue last year.

Wal-Mart last year agreed to pay $3.1 billion as part of a nationwide opioid settlement after allegations that it failed to regulate prescriptions for painkillers.

Experts say the settlement includes several court-ordered compliance requirements that pharmacists must implement.

Pharmacists have complained that this increases their workload when they must fill the same volume of prescriptions with fewer people and fewer hours, according to Facebook posts and freelance message boards frequented by Walmart employees.

(Reporting by Siddharth Kaval in New York; Editing by Muhammad for the Arabic Bulletin) Editing by Jonathan Otis and Andy Sullivan

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