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.
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.
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.”