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BPA's bid for union independence thrown out over 'cosy' ties with Boots

Multiples The Boots Pharmacists Association has had its application for independence rejected by a union inspector who ruled it was “liable to interference” by the health and beauty giant.

The Boots Pharmacists Association (BPA) has had its application for independence thrown out by a union inspector who ruled it was "liable to interference" by the health and beauty giant. 

The BPA, which represents 1,372 of Boots' 5,500 pharmacists, was not under the domination or control of Boots but did rely on it for financial and promotional support, the certification officer said in a ruling last month (May 20).

BPA chief executive Peter Walker, who applied for a certificate of independence in October 2012, said the association was disappointed and was considering a formal response to the ruling. It would have no impact on the way the BPA works and the association would continue its representation of members, he said.

Certification officer David Cockburn said Boots' support for the BPA left it "liable to interference tending towards domination or control"

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Certification officer David Cockburn said the relationship between Boots and the BPA was a "relatively cosy one".   

Over the past 18 months Boots had assisted in BPA recruitment by including an application form in its offer letter to new employees, Mr Cockburn noted.

The BPA was dependent on Boots for the payment of subscriptions and had no detailed contingency plan if the multiple withdrew the arrangement, he added.   

Boots also provided financial and material support, including allowing the BPA to use its internal mail system, providing a £2,000-a-year sponsorship of the union's publication Professional Counsellor and free use of its premises, said Mr Cockburn.

The threat of withdrawal or serious curtailment of support by Boots placed the BPA in a position where it was "liable to interference tending towards domination or control", he concluded.

Boots said this week it had a "strong and effective relationship" with the BPA and meets with the group to discuss issues concerning patient safety, professional issues and general working conditions. "We find their input challenging, informative and constructive," a spokesperson said.

The PDA Union has applied for recognition by Boots and the case is being considered by the Central Arbitration Committee, which ruled in February that the application could go ahead. Boots has applied for a judicial review and a hearing will be held at the High Court on October 23.

What do you make of the certification officer's ruling?

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Having seen and been involved in both sides, personally its PDA all the way for me. I was never clear when with BPA, whether we were just being tolerated or actually able to influence BTC decisions. Since leaving Boots, I know that PDA are definitely looking after my interests.

Davina Gadhia, Locum pharmacist

I never supported BPA. PDA all the way.

Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist

No great surprise that the BPA has had its application for independence thrown out by the Union Inspector. The position of the BPA in representing Boots Pharmacists interests would seem to be irredeemably compromised.

However, despite this setback, no doubt both Boots and their BPA will be striving to keep their “cosy” relations going for as long as possible.

I think it would be a fair to assume that when Walgreens take over Boots they will be planning quite a few changes. I doubt any of these changes will improve the working conditions for Boots Pharmacists and therefore one of the last things Walgreens would want is a proper independent union (such as the PDA) in place and representing their interests.

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

Honestly Clive that is a very cynical point of view and I am sure that you would accept that Boots operates ethically when dealing with its pharmacists and BPA. I am sures that you would agree that it is a healthy interdependent association which has delivered benefits to employee pharmacists and the company.



Stephen Walsh, Community pharmacist

Was using TUPE, which is supposed to protect workers rights, in order to end the final salary pension scheme an ethical way to deal with their pharmacists and staff?I think not.
That was cynical and underhand . As was the removal of the double time pay for the Sunday/Bank holidays.
The BPA were toothless during all this.
I really fear for the terms and conditions that Boots staff currently "enjoy".

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