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Boots pharmacist: Why I launched a legal challenge to change our union

C+D spoke exclusively to one of the six Boots pharmacists whose actions sparked the formal "derecognition" of the multiple’s own union.

In June, 2,826 Boots pharmacists voted to end an agreement with the Boots Pharmacists’ Association (BPA), paving the way for the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) Union to negotiate pay and holidays on behalf of the multiple’s employees.

The result was a major development in a dispute which dates back to 2012, when the PDA Union called for official recognition from Boots, after alleging the multiple's staff employment terms were being “gradually eroded”.

One pharmacist told C+D they were approached “about a year ago” by the PDA Union to become one of the six signatories needed to support the application to “derecognise” the BPA.

“They only needed one employee apparently, but they were going for safety in numbers,” the pharmacist – who wishes to remain anonymous – explained.

“I thought about it and discussed it with people from the [PDA Union] as to what the process was going to be and decided to go ahead.”

The pharmacist said they hope the derecognition of the BPA will “make pharmacists’ working lives better” and result in “greater transparency”.

“I didn’t feel like I had too much to lose,” the signatory said. “The real benefit to me [was that] it might make a difference to those coming up behind me.”

“Surprised by the result”

Despite the vote’s outcome, the pharmacist told C+D they were “quite surprised” by the result, because other pharmacists they had spoken to within the company “didn’t seem to have a lot of interest”.

“I’d be telling them about it and they weren’t aware of it or the struggles the PDA have had over the past few years.”

Reasons for supporting the legal challenge

After reading an article in the Guardian in April 2016, which detailed the complaints of disgruntled employees, the pharmacist told C+D they had recognised some of the grievances voiced by Boots colleagues.

“It seemed to be worse in some places than it was with us [and] it certainly didn’t seem that bad in my patch,” they said. “But I certainly identified with some of the pressures that were being put on the service.”

The pharmacist joined the PDA Union in March 2017 after witnessing the support the union had given to a colleague at the multiple, they told C+D.

The signatory said they believe the PDA Union recognises the pressure pharmacists feel over “extra services coming in”.

“Lots of pressure was going to be put on pharmacists to deliver those [and] I just felt [Boots] needed some independence from the BPA,” they added.

Conflict of interest

The pharmacist believed a “conflict of interest” was apparent, because his previous line manager was also a BPA representative.

“That made me think ‘hang on, this isn’t a good place to be’, so that was another reason I joined the PDA Union.”

“Obviously the BPA and the company were closely joined together,” they added

BPA responds

In response, BPA chief executive Paul Robinson told C+D the union is “rightly proud” of its “excellent track record” of providing representation for its members.

“Any potential conflicts of interest are avoided through appropriate choice of union representative for members undergoing disciplinary procedures,” he added.

Boots declined to comment for this piece.

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