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Boots pharmacists vote ‘overwhelmingly’ in favour of PDA Union

Just 266 Boots pharmacists voted not to be represented by the PDA Union
Just 266 Boots pharmacists voted not to be represented by the PDA Union

Ninety two per cent of Boots pharmacists who took part in a ballot voted in favour of having their pay, hours and holiday negotiated by the PDA Union, it announced last night.

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

January 2012

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.

March 2012

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.

April 2012

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).

January 2013

The CAC accepts the PDA Union's application, on the condition that at least 10% of Boots pharmacists are members of the union.

February 2013

Boots and the BPA vow to fight the CAC's ruling through a judicial review in the High Court.

January 2014

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.

February 2014

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.

September 2014

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.

November 2016

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.

February 2017

The Court of Appeal upholds the High Court decision.

July 2017

Six Boots pharmacists launch a legal challenge to "derecognise" the BPA.

June 2018

Boots pharmacists vote to derecognise the BPA, paving the way for the PDA Union to apply for formal recognition.

March 2019

Boots pharmacists vote to be represented by the PDA Union.

What do you make of the result?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

This makes me happy.

Meera Sharma, Primary care pharmacist

Excellent result & news! Well done PDA - quite a watershed moment for pharmacists everywhere. Hopefully, we will see some positive movement from Boots towards their pharmacists. Any words of wisdom from RPS/GPhC???

Michael Parker,

Obviously this is the result I hoped for, and all congratulations are due to The team at the PDAU for making this happen, also the other 5 of my colleagues, who I have yet to meet, that put their heads above the parapet to ask for de-recognition of the BPA. 

The thing that saddens me is that members of the profession feel so strongly that they were undervalued that they need Union representation in the first place. 

Saddened Old Timer, Community pharmacist

Well done sir !

Zegai Ermias, Community pharmacist

What a great day. The bullies boses and owners take notice. As pharmacist I don't want to be bossed around by none qualified store managers for targets . This is happening every day. I am glad the PDA won, No boses can now bully their employer pharmacists. A lot of pharmacits have been a yes men to their boses . Don't get me wrong there are small multiples who treat their pharmacists as their own . The whole set up of boots is a disgrace!!!.
Let me me tell to boots pharmacists join the PDA for which I am a member, they will stand for you . I l worked boots more 6 years ago, for most of that day I was covering the dispensary, the counter, and dispensary methadone in a a place where a lot of addicts. Is that safe?? . Let's be a yes men to our boses and fight!!

Dara Hughes, Community pharmacist

Today is a very fine day for every pharmacist, boots or otherwise. I would also argue that it is indeed a very fine day for the entire healthcare team. I encourage boots to follow the noble and responsible path and work constructively with the pdau. Well done to all my fellow boots pharmacists! One proud moment to be savoured. 

anti-depressed Pharmacist, Manager

So proud to be a Pharmacist today. :)

Graham Morris, Design

The worm has turned!

Snake Plissken, Student

I’m absolutely thrilled to hear this news. Have been eagerly waiting for the result. PDAU definitely got it right when they called it the “Groundhog Day for Boots”. Absolutely amazing! 

David Moore, Locum pharmacist

What a marvelous vote of confidence in Boots. I eagerly await the company's response.

John Smith, Locum pharmacist

This is what a culture of relentless soft bullying, ingratitude and claseless managerial behaviour does to a workforce. It turns the vast majority of your greatest asset against you. It's also inextricably linked to nosediving profits and huge staff turnover. Though there's not much staff now left to turnover. It must be said that the robots upstairs in Boots felt empowered to behave this way due to the limitless supply of cheap pharmacist labour being pumped out of the ever increasing schools of pharmacy. Good to see.


Pharmacy Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Brilliant what a great result!! Boots will have to listen now. Will they be professional and step up to this I hope they don’t argue over every little step. PLEASE JUST LISTEN now you made it so difficult for yourselves and looked very silly. C&D were suspiciously quiet through this whole campaign....too many friends at Boots I suspect. 

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Would be interesting to hear what the c&d editorial team have to say assuming they’re allowed to speak?!

Arun Bains, Community pharmacist

A truly historic day for the profession 

Saddened Old Timer, Community pharmacist

What an amazing result! Boots leadership are obviously way, way out of touch with how their pharmacists really feel. Now is the time for them to take it on the chin, be grown ups and work with the PDAU to make life better for their pharmacists. Surely good business sense too? 

Aldosterone antagonist, Locum pharmacist

Ha ha ha, slap in the face for Boots. Hopefully a step in the right direction for Boots pharmacists.

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