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6 Boots pharmacists launch bid for full PDA representation

Mark Pitt: This is an opportunity for pharmacists to take back control of their work environment
Mark Pitt: This is an opportunity for pharmacists to take back control of their work environment

Six Boots pharmacists have launched a legal challenge to have their pay, hours and holiday collectively negotiated by the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) Union.

The challenge was “hand delivered” to the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) – the independent body responsible for resolving workplace disputes – last Friday (July 28) afternoon, PDA director of defence services Mark Pitt told C+D this morning (July 31).

The application is to formally “derecognise” the multiple's own union, the Boots Pharmacists’ Association (BPA), Mr Pitt explained.

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

In February 2017, the Court of Appeal upheld a High Court decision that Boots’ refusal to formally recognise the PDA Union was lawful. At the time, the High Court judge said the union would have to find a Boots pharmacist to support its application to have the BPA “derecognised”and end its bargaining powers at the multiple.

BPA response

In a statement published on its website today, the BPA confirmed it had received notification of the legal challenge.

“This was expected by the BPA following the decision of the Court of Appeal, which indicated that derecognition was the only route left for the PDA Union to gain recognition by Boots. We will work through the due process which follows,” the BPA added.

Boots was unavailable for comment at time of going to press.

"Thousands" of Boots pharmacists represented

Speaking to C+D this morning, Mr Pitt said the PDA Union – which "has been asked to speak on behalf" of the six Boots pharmacists – only needed one pharmacist from the multiple to sign the legal challenge and formally launch proceedings. But “we have half a dozen just to be on the safe side”.

The PDA Union represents “approximately 2,300” Boots employees, Mr Pitt estimated, but currently cannot negotiate their pay, hours or holiday.

In a statement published last Friday (July 28), PDA Union general secretary John Murphy said “the individuals taking this action are representative of many thousands of Boots pharmacists who have been frustrated by their employer’s actions”.

According to figures submitted to the government, the BPA had 1,253 members at the end of 2016.

Next steps

Mr Pitt told C+D that the CAC has 10 working days to either accept or reject the pharmacists’ application, at which point all Boots employed pharmacists below area manager level, as well as pre-registration trainees, will be subject to a secret ballot to decide whether to have the BPA “derecognised” as Boots’ sole union.

“There has never really been an application...before to derecognise a non-independent union,” Mr Pitt claimed. “This is a real opportunity for pharmacists to take back control of their working environment.”

The Boots and PDA saga so far...

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.

14 Comments
Question: 
Are you a Boots pharmacist currently represented by the BPA?

Meera Sharma, Community pharmacist

Well done to these 6 pharmacists - as an ex-employee, this has been long overdue. It's a shame that is has taken a battle just to get this far. You have a lot of support for this!

Saddened Old Timer, Community pharmacist

It isn't good that Boots have to be challenged in this way but then if they behaved professionally towards their pharmacists then it would not be necessary. If Boots are allowed to behave as they wish disrespecting both their professionals and patients then it's a slippery slope for all the profession. 

Freelance Chemist, Pre-reg Pharmacist

This will not change anything.  The PDA lot have their own personal issues with boots, they do not care about pharmacists.  

How many times have you guys called the PDA for help for them to tell you sorry its your fault your on your own?!

BTW this is what people have told me, im not making it up.

The PDA rob us with thier useless insurance, it has so many exclusions its not worth the paper its written on,  at least pays us peanuts lol

Brian Perry, Locum pharmacist

This does not sound like the PDA that was more than helpful toward me and a number of other pharmacists in a certain matter.

The PDA's one irremediable fault is that it was started 40 years too late.

Locum Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

Good on you guys. Hope this time the right thing happens and Boots pharmacists get representation from people that support them in employment matters rather than bully and belittle them.

Pharmacist Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Shortly, within the next 10 working days, there will be 6 Boots Pharmacists reported to the GPhC for misconduct. They will be struck off. The application for PDA will be rejected and BPA will continue to operate as the recognised Boots union.

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

It would be far worse for all of us if there was no PDA. I just heard about someone being finished by a multiple recently, and yes it is an older pharmacist being pushed aside for someone cheaper...

Brian Perry, Locum pharmacist

Or maybe they just end up "sleepin' wid da fishes?"

jack The-Lad, Communications

Boots CEO Pessina accompanies the Government on overseas trade "missions" and therefore has a green card to do what the hell he likes. Many respondents question how Boots get away with what they do , you now know why -- just look at how they treat people and get away with it. Unfortunately, this legal challenge will get thrown out , just like everything else they don't want to do.!!!!

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Are you suggesting an unhealthy relationship. Between Boots and the government?

jack The-Lad, Communications

The evidence would certainly point to an unhealthy relationship . Wouldn't it ?? Can't be in the pharmacist or other employees interest can it??

Pharmacist Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

You must not be aware, but most multiples have ministers in the Government who look after the multiple's interests. Even the GPhC has members who have some form of alliance to the multiples that they are supported by

jack The-Lad, Communications

Yes I am aware of that and "alot of backscratching" as well. These multiples , particularly Boots and Lloyds have ruined an honourable profession, would you not agree ?????

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Yet said multiples get a lot of hot air blown up their backsides and promotion by this 'impartial' publication.

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