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Adjudicator puts PDA bid for Boots recognition on hold

Professional Central Arbitration Committee halts process following court ruling that Boots has no obligation to recognise the union

The Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) Union's bid to represent Boots pharmacists has been put on hold by the government's statutory adjudicator.

The Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) said it had halted the PDA Union recognition process for four weeks after the High Court ruled that Boots had no obligation to recognise the union in an interim decision made last month (January 22).

The High Court had invited the PDA Union to challenge its ruling and therefore the CAC would wait for the final decision, it told C+D yesterday.

The Central Arbitration Committee has halted the PDA Union recognition process after the High Court ruled that Boots had no obligation to recognise the union

More on the PDA Union case

High Court blow for PDA in Boots recognition battle

PDA Union gets green light to pursue Boots recognition

Boots takes battle with PDA Union to High Court

The CAC decided last month (Jan 9) that the potential level of support for the PDA Union among Boots pharmacists was high enough to allow the union's application for recognition by the multiple to continue. Boots and the PDA Union originally had until this week to agree on the number of Boots pharmacists that could take up PDA Union representation if the union was formally recognised.

Boots UK director of pharmacy Peter Bainbridge said this week that the delay would give all parties time to consider the implications and effects of the High Court decision.

"It continues to be my strong belief that it's not in the best interest of the future of pharmacy, pharmacy patients or our pharmacists to formally recognise the PDA Union for collective bargaining on pay, hours or conditions," Mr Bainbridge said.

"The PDA Union sees the future of pharmacy in a fundamentally different way to us in some key areas," he added.

The PDA Union's general secretary John Murphy told C+D last month that its battle for recognition within Boots was "of significance for all community pharmacists and indeed the profession as a whole".

The union's membership services manager Mark Pitt said yesterday that it was still deciding whether to challenge the High Court ruling on the grounds that it infringed European human rights legislation. It had until February 11 to notify the court, he said. 

Boots appealed against the CAC decision last year to depart from existing UK legislation and accept the PDA Union's application. At the time, the CAC acknowledged that Boots' own union was unable to bargain on its pharmacists' pay, hours or holiday.

Should Boots recognise the PDA Union?

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M Yang, Community pharmacist

A bit more detail would have been welcome in this article. I'm sure C + D readers want to know more about why the bid was put on hold. Mainly, because the CAC had made its decision based on interpreting EU legislation. Boots' squad of lawyers was able to fight back by arguing that the CAC went beyond its powers and failed to take into account current UK legislation.

There is a silver lining to this. It does highlight the incompatibility of UK law with the European Convention on Human Rights and if done correctly, the PDA potentially has very effective ammunition for pursuing it further at the next round against Boots. However, it may take some time as no one seems to have decided whether the UK should stay in the EU. That hurdle needs to be overcome before parliament gets round to worrying about this issue.

Caroline Jones, Locum pharmacist

What's the betting that Boots will set its vast resources into overdrive to lobby this government adjudicator into getting its own way. This whole process stinks. We used to have democracy and free choice in this country to join or not join any union we pleased, but Boots only recognise mafiosa style rules which means Boots rules or no rules. So how can that possibly be good for any aspect of pharmacy! Keep going PDA, the majority of Pharmacists are rooting for you and democratic pharmacy - which surely is the best way forward for Pharmacy and its patients.

Farmer Cyst, Community pharmacist

"The PDA Union sees the future of pharmacy in a fundamentally different way to us in some key areas"

If I had to bet my professional future on an organisation it would be the PDA long before Boots. That said I've never fancied being legally responsible for decisions taken by overbearing and bullying managers, and always hoped to earn more than minimum wage, so it's no wonder they're not my cup of tea.

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