Netcare’s Clicks pharmacy deal mired in anger, confusion


Netcare’s Clicks pharmacy deal mired in anger, confusion

Cape Town – Netcare [JSE:NTC] is taking flak from independent pharmacists and a trade union after announcing plans for a long-term outsourcing deal with Clicks.

Netcare, one of SA’s three big private hospital groups, wants to outsource its Medicross pharmacies and hospital retail outlets to health and beauty retailer Clicks.  

Clicks, which has 384 in-store pharmacies, will take over all 37 Medicross pharmacies and the shops in 51 Netcare hospitals, the companies announced in a joint statement.

Read: Clicks to assume control of Netcare’s Medicross pharmacies

Netcare said specific employees involved will be transferred to Clicks on terms similar to their current conditions of employment, and any other employees indirectly affected will remain employed by Netcare on their current conditions of employment.

However, the Health & Other Service Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa) is claiming that no consultation with staff took place.

“Our members are very concerned about this. We have received several complaints about this sudden move,” Hospersa general secretary Noel Desfontaines told Fin24.

“The main issue is that Netcare communicated such a radical change in members’ careers in such an unusual matter – through a newsletter of all things. We believe it is totally inappropriate,” he insisted.

Netcare chief executive officer Dr Richard Friedland rejected this allegation.

“We can confirm that there was direct communication from line managers to all potentially affected employees who were on duty before any general communication was issued,” he responded to Fin24 in a statement.

“We can also confirm that senior human resources management communicated directly with official representatives of the relevant trade unions, inclusive of Hospersa, prior to any formal communication being generated.”

Friedland said this communication occurred with a full-time shop steward of Hospersa employed by Netcare after attempts to contact another senior union employee were unsuccessful.

“It is important to reiterate that no staff member will be prejudiced from a conditions of employment perspective, and neither would there be any job losses as a result of the transaction.”

He added that in the interim, the communication process will continue with all staff members, noting that it will be complemented by meetings, which are in the process of being scheduled with the representative trade unions.

“As the majority union at Netcare, including Medicross and its others divisions, Hospersa would have expected the employer to be more open regarding its intentions,” said Desfontaines. “Hospersa has a proud history of working with employers through participatory processes.”

Desfontaines said members can rest assured that Hospersa will leave no stone unturned to negotiate the best possible outcome to this situation.

Chairperson of the Independent Community Pharmacy Association Mogologolo Phasha told Fin24 that Netcare should keep their front shop in-house.

“This is just another example of the extent to which corporatisation is taking hold of the marketplace. We believe that this collaboration between big business allows for an oligopoly to more readily develop, and destroys the government’s vision and promotion of SMMEs in South Africa.”

Phasha said this deal will provide the customer with less choice in shopping around.

“Joint ventures between big business infiltrating a specific location is a threat to the stability of other healthcare providers and infrastructure which have served their communities over time.”

The implementation date of the transaction is expected to be October 1 2016, subject to various conditions precedent and regulatory approvals, including Competition Commission approval.

The agreement excludes the dispensing of prescriptions in the Netcare hospital pharmacies, which remain within Netcare’s hospital operations.

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