In what seems like a never-ending battle, the Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) Union has been fighting to gain official recognition from Boots since the beginning of 2012. And just last month, the PDA made fresh progress, as the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) ruled that the health and beauty giant should have to recognise the union. But the dispute looks unlikely to end there as Boots is now seeking a review of the decision. The union Boots recognises, the Boots Pharmacists' Association, says it best serves the interest of its members. But the PDA claims it can't match its own expertise – adding that it already has 2,100 Boots employees as members. Speaking exclusively to C+D, PDA Union general secretary John Murphy reveals why he believes the organisation could change conditions for Boots employees, and the challenges that are at the top of his to-do list.
If Boots gave the PDA Union official recognition, what would this mean for employee pharmacists?
"It would give them the right to negotiate their terms, conditions and working practices. The PDA Union would be able to develop a more effective and inclusive mechanism for the voice of the individual pharmacist to be heard."
Are there any issues in particular that concern you about conditions at Boots, or anything you'd seek to change immediately?
"The reduction in weekend and bank holiday premiums was a case in point. We are convinced that, if we had been involved in negotiations about this at the outset, an arrangement could have been brokered. Instead, the company excluded us and railroaded the changes through, only for it to be proved that they acted unlawfully in doing so.
"Professional autonomy also impacts on working practice and the working environment. Interestingly, Boots and the PDA are not that far away in our vision for what pharmacists should be doing in the future, though there may be some differences in opinion of how we get there. We believe that there are good opportunities to work constructively with Boots for the benefit of all parties."
How hopeful are you that you'll get official recognition and when do you expect this to happen by?
"We have to take this one step at a time. We are confident that the CAC has come to a carefully considered opinion and, in doing so, has made a significant impact on union law. Boots however has decided to challenge this in a judicial review, which will dictate the next step, and there are also other hurdles to overcome.
"What I would say, however, is that we are committed to progressing this on behalf of our members. It would have been so easy for us to have been intimidated by the might of Boots and the resources it has ploughed into trying to quash our application. I hope that our tenacity is testament to the fact that we will not be deterred if we believe that what we are doing is right and that if Boots pharmacists give us the mandate, that they can rest assured that we will represent their best interests without fear."