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Boots union unfazed by PDA's potential attack option

Boots’ union is unconcerned by a High Court judge’s suggestion that the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) Union try a new strategy in its ongoing battle to represent the multiple’s employees.


Boots' union is unfazed by a High Court judge's suggestion that the Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) Union try a new strategy in its ongoing battle to represent the multiple's employees.

Judge Sir Brian Keith granted Boots a "pyrrhic victory" on September 12, ruling that the multiple's refusal to recognise the PDA Union was within European law. Sir Brian said his verdict opened up the possibility of the PDA Union applying for an end to bargaining arrangements between Boots and its own union, the Boots Pharmacists' Association (BPA).

BPA chief executive John Makepeace said the organisation was "quite sanguine" about the verdict. Boots, its pharmacists and the PDA all respected the BPA's work and it was not in anybody's interest to "destroy" this, he told C+D in an exclusive interview on Friday (September 19).

In his verdict, Sir Brian said the PDA Union would need to find a Boots pharmacist to support its application to end the BPA's bargaining arrangements with its members. This would allow the PDA Union to make a fresh attempt to represent Boots employees.

Mr Makepeace said finding a pharmacist to take part would be an "interesting exercise" for the PDA Union. "We'd have to take legal advice at that point and see what our options were. We have a strong, growing membership and our main concern would be what's going to happen to their representation if that was to happen," he said.

Mr Makepeace stressed that the BPA was "not sitting back and worrying" about the PDA Union's possible course of action and the legal implications of the case were not "slowing [the BPA] down".

The BPA's relationship with its members did not "hang on its legal status" and would not affect its "day-to-day work", he added.

The legal process

PDA Union general secretary John Murphy told C+D that the organisation had "never considered" calling for an end to the BPA's bargaining arrangements before.

The union was still "set on exhausting any legal processes" that would achieve its initial goal of proving that it should be legally allowed to represent Boots employees. This could involve taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights, Mr Murphy said.

The PDA Union has been embroiled in a legal battle to be formally recognised by the health and beauty giant for more than two years, since it claimed that the rights of Boots pharmacists were being "gradually eroded" in 2012. 

Should the PDA Union take Sir Keith's advice?

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Calum Nelson, Locum pharmacist

Here's all that needs to be said about the BPA. Boots gives them a lot of support, facilities and even recruitment opportunities. When the PDA stepped on the scene, Boots threw hundreds of thousands of pounds into stopping them in a drawn out legal battle. Notice the difference in response. Feel free to draw your own conclusions.

M Yang, Community pharmacist

My (ultimately biased) conclusion being that Boots invests money into the BPA to maintain the facade of having a trade union, which allows them to dodge the issue of having to recognise the PDA. In contrast, the PDA relies on the collective pooling of money from all its members, so its members have a direct stake in the union.

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

This is running like a Hollywood Block Buster with more sequels than Frank Sinatra had final appearence shows in Vegas....

M Yang, Community pharmacist

It'll culminate in a Death Star like explosion and the bad guy thrown down a reactor shaft. Then we'll need some prequels to show how the evil empire/shoe company rose to power in the first place.

M Yang, Community pharmacist

'Mr Makepeace said finding a pharmacist to take part would be an "interesting exercise" for the PDA Union. " '

Why does Mr Makepeace think this is so? Perhaps he should be reminded that Boots would have also face an "interesting exercise" finding an excuse to dismiss said pharmacist for his or her role in supporting the PDA. It would be an "interesting exercise" when they have to face the judges once again.

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