A total of 3,229 registered and pre-registration Boots pharmacists voted in favour, with just 266 rejecting Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) Union representation.
The PDA Union needed the vote of at least 40% of the pharmacists eligible to take part in the ballot to succeed – which it surpassed, securing 48%.
Both parties will now discuss the terms of a recognition agreement, with guidance from the Central Arbitration Committee – the independent body responsible for resolving workplace disputes.
The results of the ballot marks the final stages of the long-running 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”.
Commenting on the results of the vote last night, the PDA Union said it “hopes that [Boots] will now finally agree to put the past behind them and work positively together with the union so that we can improve things at Boots for pharmacists, pre-registration pharmacists, patients and the company”.
Boots pharmacy and retail operations director Andrew Caplan said: “Clearly, this is not the result that we had hoped for. However, we have listened to the voice of our pharmacists and offer our congratulations to the PDA Union.”
Next steps for Boots
Boots announced last month that if its pharmacists voted to reject PDA Union representation then it would launch its own alternative – a “joint negotiation committee” – which would be helmed by an “independent chairperson, with full negotiation rights on all aspects of pharmacy at Boots” – including strategy, pay, hours and holiday – and “direct access to senior leadership”.
The multiple told C+D this morning that in light of the result, it will not proceed with its plans for the joint negotiating committee.
Boots and the PDA Union will now enter negotiations on the recognition agreement, which the multiple expects to last six weeks.
“Once that has taken place, we'll be able to confirm how our listening structures will work in the future,” Boots told C+D.
Read C+D’s analysis of whether the PDA Union's victory will lead to increased unionisation across community pharmacy.
The Boots and PDA saga
The PDA Union asks Boots for formal recognition to allow it to represent its pharmacists, after claiming the multiple's employees are seeing their employment rights "gradually eroded". Boots tells C+D it is working closely with the Boots Pharmacists' Association (BPA) on the issue.
The PDA Union meets Boots to discuss its decision not to formally recognise the union, and threatens to take its case to the statutory adjudicator if the two sides cannot reach an agreement. Boots promises to give a final decision within three weeks.
PDA Union general secretary John Murphy reveals Boots has stood by its decision not to recognise the union. He says the union will seek independent arbitration on the case from the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC).
The CAC accepts the PDA Union's application, on the condition that at least 10% of Boots pharmacists are members of the union.
Boots and the BPA vow to fight the CAC's ruling through a judicial review in the High Court.
The CAC rules support is high enough among Boots employees for the PDA Union to proceed. Later that month, the High Court rules Boots has no legal obligation to formally recognise the PDA Union, but invites the union to challenge the ruling. The PDA Union claims that the decision breaches European human rights legislation.
The CAC halts the PDA Union's application for recognition until a final legal decision is made. The PDA Union files a request with the High Court, submitting that UK employment law is a breach of European human rights.
The High Court rules that the UK and European laws are compatible, but the judge highlights a potential new avenue for the PDA Union to go down, in the form of pushing for derecognition of the BPA.
The PDA Union appeals against the High Court ruling in the Court of Appeal, arguing that the decision is "incompatible" with the European Convention on Human Rights and the union should be allowed to proceed with its application for formal recognition.
The Court of Appeal upholds the High Court decision.
Six Boots pharmacists launch a legal challenge to "derecognise" the BPA.
Boots pharmacists vote to derecognise the BPA, paving the way for the PDA Union to apply for formal recognition.
Boots pharmacists vote to be represented by the PDA Union.