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Boots employees win historic vote to decide union for themselves

Six Boots pharmacists lodged the legal challenge to formally “derecognise” the BPA in July 2017
Six Boots pharmacists lodged the legal challenge to formally “derecognise” the BPA in July 2017

More than 2,800 Boots pharmacists have voted to end an agreement with the multiple’s own union, paving the way for the PDA Union to represent them.

Forty-seven per cent of the 6,890 registered and pre-registration pharmacists eligible to take part voted on whether they would like to see Boots’ own union – the Boots Pharmacists’ Association (BPA) – “derecognised”, so that their pay, hours and working conditions can be negotiated by a union of their choice.

A total of 2,826 voted in favour, just 70 more than needed to meet the legal threshold, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) Union announced yesterday afternoon (June 6).

The PDA Union can “now proceed with steps to get statutory recognition at the employer”, potentially bringing an end to the long-running legal dispute between the two organisations.

The vote was the “first time this process has ever been undertaken in the UK”, the PDA Union claimed, “as no group of employees has ever taken a campaign to end recognition of a non-independent trade union this far down the legal process”.

BPA chief executive officer Paul Robinson said the union is “obviously disappointed by the result of the ballot, but would like to acknowledge the PDA Union’s success in the campaign”.

“Over the next few weeks, the BPA executive team will meet to discuss the impact of the ballot and how best to continue serving its members moving forward,” he added.

“The BPA would like to thank those that voted against de-recognition for their unwavering support, as well as BPA members who have remained loyal during this long campaign, and who appreciate all the benefits that BPA membership has to offer.”

The story behind the vote

Six Boots pharmacists lodged a legal challenge to formally “derecognise” the BPA with the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) – the independent body responsible for resolving workplace disputes – in July 2017.

The dispute dates back to January 2012, when the PDA Union called for official recognition from Boots, after alleging the multiple's staff employment terms were being “gradually eroded”.

The CAC decided in February that Boots pharmacists in “predominantly” patient-facing roles would be balloted to decide which union will represent them, once a “qualified independent person” was appointed to oversee the votes.

Did you take part in the vote?

, Superintendent Pharmacist

Pharmacists do not have patients. They do not treat people with a Rx.They are customers. Ask for £50 an hour or go on strike.

*This comment has been edited to comply with C+D's community principles*



A Pharmacy Worker, Pharmaceutical Adviser

So pleased about this news. Its about time that Boots are exposed for the slave drivers that they really are! Does anyone know if they will be able to represent non pharmacists, in the future? Like ACTs, technicians, HCAs?

Chemical Mistry, Information Technology

I thínk the Boots pharmacist's involved in bringing this about in conjunction with the PDA should be made fellow's of the royal pharmaceutical society asap since what they did was put their jobs on the line and brought about a change which will affect thousands of Boots pharmacist's for the greater good. Which is more than most of the fellows have done.

robert nsenga, Community pharmacist

Great news indeed!

Zegai Ermias, Community pharmacist

 "The BPA has expressed “disappointment” at the result" and are discussing away forward: let me advice you (BPA and Paul Robinson ),  your organisation is not fit for purpose and the way forward is to close down and let pharmacists be represented by a proper union. Why boots fought this buttle with its pharmacists and PDA is not difficult to guess, they want all their pharmacists to be repressented by a union they control. BPA DID NOTHING TO PROTECT ITS MEMBERS while boots and their NONE-PHARMACIST brunch managers bully and harass them. shame on boots and BPA, We hope now boots comes to their senses and treat their pharmacists with the respect they deserve.


James Mac, Community pharmacist

My thoughts exactly. Good riddance BPA hopefully

Dave Downham, Manager

I wish I could manage brunch...

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Sounds delicious.

Zegai Ermias, Community pharmacist

Rejoice : Well done to PDA and all boots pharmacists who fought for this . PDA stands for justice, equality and against bulling. I am glad I am a member of this great union. Hope all boots employee pharmacists leave their pointless and ineffective BPA union and join this modern and effective union!! As pharmacists we all need a union who can speak on behalf of us against the bulling culture bleiting our profession

Dara Hughes, Community pharmacist

Well done to all my fellow Boots pharmacist colleagues. This is a momentous day for you all! Not only does this serve to empower those great pharmacists but also serves to empower those incredibly hard working and valued HCAs, pharmacy advisors, pharmacy technicians and ACPTs and pre-reg students. Let's not forget that great pharmacists only arise in conjunction with a legendary pharmacy team behind them.

Saddened Old Timer, Community pharmacist

Has potential for a positive knock on effect for the whole team 

Freelance Chemist, Pre-reg Pharmacist

once this gane been forced through, I have been told watch out for the first strikes of pharmacists...... 

Boots Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Nonsense, who told you this? Nobody in their right mind would propose a strike before even a breath of negotiation. There will be no strikes.

Zegai Ermias, Community pharmacist

Well who knows, unless boots change their appauling practices

Freelance Chemist, Pre-reg Pharmacist

The strikes will happen after Boots decline pay rises and better terms and conditions.  I have this on very good authority from the people that organised this whole thing..... you guys can draw your own consulsions about who has told me.

The fact they will beforced to recognise the union will be good for all pharmacists, pharmacy owners will NOT like it because pay will go up for every pharmacist in the industry.  What Boots does, everybody else copys....

sorry for the typos keyboard it bust

Saddened Old Timer, Community pharmacist

As someone who has personally been involved with this campaign, you have either been misinformed or misinterpreted what you have been told. Talk of imminent strikes is not only untrue but absolutely ridiculous. The PDAU is an organisation of pharmacists who totally understand professionalism and our obligations to our patients . 

Freelance Chemist, Pre-reg Pharmacist

Hi, If you have been personally involved with it from the start then you should know what the long term aims are.......

Boots will be fully held to account for what they have done to the "profession" in due course.........

Boots Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

I don't think ANYONE expects pay rises! (Although annual reviews somewhat closer to inflation would be nice...i.e. limiting years of real terms pay REDUCTION) But the PDA cannot impose a strike and I don't believe for a second that would be their aim. It would have to be voted for by union members...I genuinely think most pharmacists care too much about their patients to do that. If tension really did get that high, there are plenty of options without going on full strike - not working beyond contracted hours for one!

Freelance Chemist, Pre-reg Pharmacist

They will not impose a strike they will ballot for this, I dont think they would struggle with it.

Saddened Old Timer, Community pharmacist

Really - who told you that, Boots or the BPA? 

Arun Bains, Community pharmacist

This should be warm as a hat of shame for Boots and The BPA. If the BPA, Boots and the GPhC were really listening how did they not hear or see this coming? 

Leon The Apothecary, Student

The start of many more victories for Boots Pharmacists I hope.

A Cooke, Community pharmacist

Excellent news for Boots Pharmacists

Meera Sharma, Primary care pharmacist

Well done PDA! It really should not have dragged out this long. As a former Boots employee, the original start in 2012 was a starting point, and can't believe it's taken 6 years to get through. Shame on the BPA for dragging this out - if you were really listening to your members in the first place, it shouldn't have taken you this long to make a decision. Well done to all the pharmacists who voted - you just made a historic moment!

Stephen Walsh, Community pharmacist

BPA chief executive officer Paul Robinson said“Over the next few weeks, the BPA executive team will meet to discuss the impact of the ballot and how best to continue serving its members moving forward,”

The best thing his useless, toothless union can do for it's members is close down and let a PROPER organisation take over. 

Congratulations to the PDA. Only wish they'd been there when the parasites took over this once great company.

John Smith, Locum pharmacist

Boots had this coming. Thier attitude to employee pharmacists, many loyal and longstanding, was absolutely disgusting. It was one of deliberate and calculated attrition and intimidation, verging on the bullying, perpetrated by Area Managers upwards. As a locum who has worked in hundreds of Boots stores I saw the effects of this first hand. It was too widespread to be co-incidental, it seemed like a deliberate policy. Why they engaged in this beggars belief. It jettisoned morale, hit profits and now they have a hard time recruiting even locums to cover  many stores that have no permanent pharmacist. 

Graham Morris, Design

Well done. The worm begins to turn.

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