Boots pharmacists one step closer to deciding union for themselves

Boots: We respect our colleagues' rights to be represented by union of their choice
Boots: We respect our colleagues' rights to be represented by union of their choice

Boots’ pharmacists are one step closer to being able to decide for themselves which union collectively negotiates their pay, hours and holiday.

Six Boots pharmacists launched a legal challenge in July to formally "derecognise" Boots' own union, the Boots Pharmacists’ Association (BPA). The challenge was delivered to the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) – the independent body responsible for resolving workplace disputes – on July 28.

The dispute dates back to January 2012, when the Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) Union called for official recognition from Boots, after alleging the multiple's employees were tired of their employment terms being "gradually eroded".

Following the CAC's decision today (November 15) to allow Boots pharmacists the right to "derecognise" the BPA, the parties involved in the case have 20 days to reach an agreement, prior to all Boots pharmacists being balloted to decide which union will represent them, the PDA claimed.

The CAC described the case as "particularly unusual and interesting", the PDA claimed. The CAC's decision will be published in full on November 20, the PDA added.

PDA Union assistant general secretary Mark Pitt said that Boots now has an opportunity to “respect and listen to the views of its employees, terminate the agreement with the BPA and voluntarily recognise the PDA Union as the voice of pharmacists at Boots”.

“It will be disappointing if senior management insist on making pharmacists go through a full ballot process in order to be represented by the union of their choice,” Mr Pitt said.

“Whatever Boots and the BPA decide, we are in no doubt that pharmacists employed at Boots will be able to see through any attempt to detract from the CAC decision,” he added.

Boots’ response

Boots UK pharmacy director Richard Bradley said the multiple “respects the rights of its colleagues” to become members of a trade body “of their own choice”.

“We are currently reviewing the CAC’s decision to fully understand why it believes that the application should proceed with such a low level of support pledged,” Mr Bradley said.

“We continue to believe that maintaining our relationship with the BPA and working with our pharmacist partnership panel is the most inclusive way of making sure all our pharmacists have a voice.”

For a timeline of the Boots and PDA saga from 2012 to 2017, click here.

6 Comments
Question: 
What do you make of the CAC's decision?

Meera Sharma, Community pharmacist

Well done PDA! Long road, but worth it. For Boots pharmacists out there, don’t waste this opportunity - it has taken a lot to get to this point. 

Boots Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

“We are currently reviewing the CAC’s decision to fully understand why it believes that the application should proceed with such a low level of support pledged,” Mr Bradley said.

Indeed, considering the wide level of support that was given for recognition of BPA in the first place following extensive consultation from Boots with Boots pharmacists....oh wait....that didn't happen, we had no say.

Anon RS, Community pharmacist

Great news, but it has just dawned on me that it was no coincidence that Boots gave their pharmacists what was by their standards a surprisingly generous and unexpected bonus which happens to have been announced just a month ago. As a now ex boots employee, in the past nine years with the company this has been the most generous bonus and it comes after two years of no bonus at all. 

It just makes sense that the big wigs at Boots are worried that the court was going to come to this decision and this was their last ditch ploy of handing out a little extra money now in the hope that their pharmacists fall into the trap of feeling that after a rough few years of erosion of their benefits things are on the up again and they won't need for the PDA bargaining on their behalf. Certainly some pharmacists will be influenced by this Boots tactic and none the wiser. For this reason I just fear the derecognition of the BPA is not a foregone conclusion especially as 40% of pharmacists will need to vote against it during the ballot process. We can be sure of one thing - that such a bonus will not happen again if BPA is not derecognised.

Lets hope all their pharmacists can see through the lies.

Boots pharmacists get behind the PDA for your own sake!!

M Yang, Community pharmacist

I'm guessing not all Boots pharmacists got this generous bonus, otherwise this would expose their modus operandi of denying a swath of employees a bonus on vague "performance" reasons. 

Of course, throwing away your right to collective bargaining for a quick bonus would be nothing short of being foolish and short sighted. Anyone working for Boots needs to use their noggin and think about this when that big bonus lands on their lap. Having a strong union with a good history of representing pharmacists on numerous workplace issues (including mistreatment by employers) has far more value than a bonus. If and when someone above you in the management structure decides to make your life difficult, you'll be happy to know that the PDA will back you up.

Or to put it another way. You're guaranteed either a) a bodyguard who'll look after you and block oncoming attackers, with the only downside being you need to pay him a modest fee or b) a one off £10,000 on the spot and nothing more.   

S Patel, Superintendent Pharmacist

Boots is the best place to work..............said no one ever

M Yang, Community pharmacist

“We are currently reviewing the CAC’s decision to fully understand why it believes that the application should proceed with such a low level of support pledged,” Mr Bradley said.

It was determined by the CAC that 10% of the 7000 pharmacists represented (ahem) by the BPA had to support the derecognition application before it could go ahead. This is distinct from the actual ballot which requires the vote of minimum 50% of employed pharmacists within Boots. Of course, Boots should have nothing to worry about...

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