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Boots fights to avoid formal PDA union representation

Multiples Boots and its union Boots Pharmacy Association (BPA) have pledged to fight a ruling which has brought the PDA one step closer to formally representing the health and beauty giant's employees.

Boots and the union Boots Pharmacy Association (BPA) have pledged to fight a ruling that has brought the PDA one step closer to formally representing the health and beauty giant's employees.

Boots said it would be reviewing the Central Arbitration Committee's (CAC) decision to accept the PDA's application, which could enable the union to eventually act on behalf of its members.

The BPA said it was extremely disappointed with the ruling by the government's statutory negotiator, as it urged pharmacists to join its own union so it could continue "to be their voice for the company and for the profession".   

"We were disappointed that the company went to great lengths to prevent us from gaining recognition and we were left with no option [but] to make a formal application to the CAC" John Murphy, PDA

More on Boots and the PDA

PDA attacks Boots for locum contract changes

PDA determined to 'take on' Boots at second       premium pay tribunal

PDA questions impact of Alliance Boots merger       on employees

The PDA made a request in February last year for the CAC to hear its case, after the multiple said it would not formally recognise the union.

The CAC panel ruled in January that it had accepted the PDA's application but needed to be satisfied that the union had met the threshold of at least 10 per cent of pharmacists employed by Boots having membership.

"In order to decide on whether the majority of the proposed bargaining unit would be likely to favour recognition of the union for the purposes of collective bargaining on their behalf ... the panel shall conduct a membership and support check to understand better the union's level of support," the CAC said.

Boots UK employes about 6,000 pharmacists according to the company's website, the PDA claims to have 2,100 Boots members.

PDA union general secretary John Murphy said the CAC's decision meant the union was now "off the starting block".

"We were disappointed that the company went to great lengths to prevent us from gaining recognition and we were left with no option [but] to make a formal application to the CAC," he said.

But BPA chief executive officer Peter Walker said he did not believe the PDA could effectively or successfully represent Boots pharmacists.

"The decision strengthens our resolve to continue to represent our members in every challenge they face and we will continue to represent our members both internally and externally as the pharmacy profession changes," Mr Walker said.

"We believe we have acted consistently throughout this process, putting the interests of our patients and our pharmacists at the forefront and acted properly and within the letter of the law," Boots HR director Dave Vallance added. "We can confirm we are seeking to review the CAC's decision."

Both Boots and the PDA can now submit evidence to the CAC, such as petitions or letters of support, before the regulator reviews the case again.

The CAC said it could take up to 25 weeks before a decision was made.

Would PDA representation benefit Boots employees?

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If only the GPhC or RPS was run by people like the PDA. Where would our profession be?? A thousand times stronger than it is today I believe.

shelton magunje, Community pharmacist

Excuse me if i dont know enough about this case! Why is it Boots the company, not BPA ,who are fighting the PDA? Whats in it for them? If their intentions are for the good of their employees then why not let the employees decide which union to join? Boots do not even have to contribute a penny towards their pharmacists' membership of the PDA so why pay costly legal fees just to try and stop employees choosing their own representative?

ps. i know 2 pharmacist friends who would not be pharmacists today if the PDA did not exist! Boots employees be warned!

Stephen Riley, Community pharmacist

The reason that Boots are fighting the PDA as opposed to the BPA is that the PDA union have approached Boots to be recognised as trade union. This is because of the number of Boots' Pharmacists who are PDA members. As a trade union the PDA has the right to represent any of their members in employment disputes (e.g. grievance meetings, disciplinary meetings and any meeting where they are entitled to representation). If the union gets formal recognition rights then the PDA can formally negotiate on behalf of members and employees for terms and conditions such as pay, holidays, etc. Also, the company would have to consult and negotiate with the union on changes to terms and conditions. It also means that the company would have to provide facilities for PDA union representatives and allow employees who are PDA representatives paid time off to complete union activities.

As it currently stands with Boots they have an in house staff association (BPA) who they have a consultation agreement with. This means they company will take their views, but do not have to act upon them or consider them. When the PDA approached Boots to discuss formal recognition, Boots postponed discussions and then signed a deal with the BPA to recognise them as union in efforts to prevent any other trade union gaining recognition rights. As part of this deal the BPA signed an agreement that prevented them from ever having negotiation rights for their members, only consultation. So as it is Boots the company the PDA are seeking to get recognition rights with, it is them who are fighting the PDA, not the BPA.

It came out at the CAC hearing that Boots had only signed the agreement with the BPA to prevent a trade union legitimately getting recognition rights and supporting their members. It was not a caring step to take more notice of their employee Pharmacists. I would urge all Boots Pharmacists to look at the facts and details of the association who is meant to support you. Then look at joining the PDA union and supporting the case for an independent union to represent your needs, a union who is not tied to your employer and would truly represent your interests. I see Gerry's point that the BPA have worked well within the framework of Boots. But that is why you need an independent body who does not have to sing the company song.

Farm Assistant, Community pharmacist

thanks stephen for sharing this information. why all this underhand behaviour? as for worker's rights we are going back to dickensian times. unless pharmacists make a stand now the future the profession is doomed. and as for all those company pharmacists at the top who are responsible for such behaviour i would like to tell you a little story.

a friend of mine worked for a famous multinational.
one day his line manager was asked to make twenty people redundant.
when he had finished his boss called him into his office and said.....
"just one last thing, your're fired as well"

M Yang, Community pharmacist

If I may chip in again, M H's bit about Boots "consultations" with the BPA only serves to show how little power that so called trade union has. Time and time again, Boots has been able to rule over its pharmacists and take actions that a legitimate trade union would never have allowed. During one unfortunate experience I had, the company neglected to provide me a copy of an important piece of evidence prior to a disciplinary, a piece which would have allowed my rep and I to better prepare a defence. When my rep demanded why this had not been provided, we were told quite curtly that it was not a legal requirement but only good practice. Whether or not this was true, Boots assured us that the BPA had given the okay for it. Needless to say, we were not happy. Had the PDA been a formal union representing pharmacists, this kind of behaviour would not have been possible. To my rep who shall remain unnamed, good on you.

Helen Hewson, Dispensing assistant

What about opening up the PDA to the rest of the pharmacy staff, we have a right to be heard too. We also need some representation in the work place, I know many staff that would be willing to join, at the moment all we can do is be a member of a general union, but we need someone with a more specialized area.
It would also increase you standing and recognition .

Davina Gadhia, Locum pharmacist

PDA are a fantastic union and I would encourage anyone in a company union to move to PDA. I have used PDA numerous times in the past and I can say from experience that without this union my voice would not have been heard. Instead I got exactly what I wanted according to my rights and PDA played a huge role in that. I've never believed in internal company unions having the interest of their employees at heart. I have even encouraged my colleagues to join PDA. Hopefully PDA will win this battle.

M Yang, Community pharmacist

Gerry, while I respect your opinion as a fellow pharmacist I must agree with Clive and Stephen. A body that can't call itself a trade union if it doesn't even satisfy the basic criteria laid out under EU law. From personal experience, the PDA has been very competent and does its best to provide reps of the highest caliber for its members in tough situations. The fight my rep put up on my behalf against Boots gave them cause for concern and it was clear from the mood in the room that he wasn't going to back down and they knew couldn't brush aside the PDA aside like it was nothing. Obivously, not every case ends happily for the pharmacist but the union does score its victories.

Boots has recently (in fact just this morning) sent emails out to all its pharmacists to gather up to date info on GPhC numbers and current registration status, for the following reason:

"We have to have accurate and up to date information about all our pharmacists as the PDAU application for formal recognition progresses with the CAC"

If the PDA wasn't a credible body and threat, then I believe such an email wouldn't have been sent out. Clearly, it's making them nervous.

Stephen Riley, Community pharmacist

Me Walker's comments are interesting. How can the BPA represent their members if the have signed away the right to ever negotiate on behalf of boots pharmacists on any terms or conditions. They have an agreement for the company to consult with them. That is not same as negotiating in their members interests. Who ever heard of a union with recognition rights in a company who got those rights by signing away the right to negotiate. Boots Pharmacists must ask themselves if that is how the BPA plan to recognise their interests are do they have a clue what their members interests are?

Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist

The PDA has shown itself to be a formidable defender of employee Pharmacists, their working conditions and their rights, all of which seem to becoming under increasing attack by certain employers who are exploiting the current Pharmacist oversupply situation.

Could this could be the reason why Boots do not want PDA representation over that of the much tamer BPA?

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

Hello Clive.

It is very nice to hear from you and I respect a great deal of your opinion and much more than that it is refreshing.

I think that the BPA have done very well and work within framework of the Boots Plc and do their best by their members and it is easy to knock something, but sometimes as Churchill said...'jaw. jaw and not war war'.

I am probably the wrong person to ask but Boots management seem fair in the context of the remit which they are dealt within the parameters which they operate.

Equally, I have been a member of BPA, USDAW and PDA simultaneously and I have not been too dependent on any organisation and firmly believe in a Presbyterian maxim of being solely independent in terms of attitudes, beliefs and values.

We should not be too focussed on organisations but individuals. I was a Labour member of Manchester City Council and voted against the invasion of Iraq, but life is funny you know, no sooner than had I opposed my own Party policy then I was called up and stood in desert boots in Basra.

Then came back from Iraq and left the Labour Party and stood as a Lib Dem over the war, but that happens when you feel passionate about things in life.

The Boots debacle needs to be seen with respect to contemporary issues. My hope is that all parties reach a consensus in the debate. I have found from colleagues that the PDA is as ineffectual as any other union.

We need to stop polarising issues and get agreement on the middle ground. Everything is a fudge in politics as someone whom has spent some years in that arena.

Getting back to pharmacy as a profession. I am very concerned about the profession but my partner has a degree in nursing, masters and membership of several professional bodies and earns £13 per hour.

What can I say. He , as I am a poof , faces the same issues professionally as pharmacists and perhaps even more so.

So sometimes life can be a pile of sh~t but you may have to male the best of it.



Farm Assistant, Community pharmacist

well gerry you have redeemed yourself in my eyes as you had the moral courage to vote against the war in iraq. however can't you see the parallels between the above company now and the labour party then? what are they afraid of?

M H, Community pharmacist

The BPA approved the unlawful deduction of boots pharmacists premium pay which went from double time to time and a half. Moreover after their 'consulting' the BPA have not managed to support the basic human rights for the pharmacists workers who are still not entitled under boots rest break policy to have a 20 minute UNINTERRUPTED break. I stress and emphasize the word ' uninterrupted' break as mentioned in the European human rights Act. These two clear points clearly show that the BPA do not have the 'boots pharmacists interest 'at heart' and that they are clearly in bed with boots management services. The PDA are on,y the true voice of pharmacists and will give you the quality and right advice you need in any employment dispute. I can't believe boots pharmacists are still with the BPA. join the PDA !

Maria Awad, Locum pharmacist

The PDA are an excellent union and actively promotes the rights of the pharmacist in this day and age, whereby litigation and investigations by companies and GPhC committees, are on the increase. The PDA preserves and protects the reputation of its members. Almost everyone I know who have had problems with employers and companies are grateful for the advice and professionalism of the PDA in dealing with their cases. Majority of cases have been dealt with satisfactory outcomes for the pharmacists involved.

Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist

Hi Gerry,

The situation as I see it is that the attitude and relationship between Boots (and other multiples) and its employee Pharmacists has changed a lot over the last few years but the BPA has not reflected this. The days when disputes could be resolved by an amicable discussion are unfortunately long gone.

These days the BPA does appear to be rather subservient to the company and unwilling to rock the boat too much in its member’s interest. The fact that both Boots and the BPA are speaking together to oppose representation by the PDA I think says a lot.

A much stronger representation for all employee Pharmacists is needed and the PDA is best we have for that.



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