The dispute dates back to January 2012, when the PDA Union called for official recognition from Boots, after claiming the multiple's employees were tired of their employment terms being "gradually eroded".
Last Friday (February 10), five years after the union's original application for a judicial review, the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s 2014 decision – which ruled that Boots’ refusal to recognise the PDA Union was lawful.
The High Court’s decision opened up the possibility of the PDA Union applying for the multiple’s own union, the Boots Pharmacists’ Association (BPA), to be formally “derecognised”. But the PDA Union would have to find a Boots pharmacist to support its application to end the BPA’s bargaining powers, the High Court judge said.
Fight for recognition
The Court of Appeal that the PDA Union “has a substantial membership among pharmacists employed by Boots”.
But in his concluding remarks, the presiding judge, Lord Justice Underhill, said that the PDA would have to find a “reasonably practicable route whereby the recognition of the PDA Union [by Boots] can be achieved, if the majority of the pharmacists want it”.
“There will inevitably be some choices which not only could have been made differently but could have been made better,” Justice Underhill said. But “it is clear from the case-law” that Boots is not in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights as the PDA Union claimed, Justice Underhill added.
Justice Underhill described Boots’ latest win as “short-term”, as the PDA Union may well “take advantage of the statutory recognition procedure” that the High Court judge identified in his judgment in 2014.
A spokesperson for Boots said the multiple is considering the implications of the judgment, but the Court of Appeal’s decision “will clearly affect the PDA Union’s formal recognition application”.
“However, our commitment to our pharmacists remains the same,” the spokesperson added. “We want to continue to build great relationships between pharmacists, their line managers and their local team and, working with the Boots Pharmacists Association, continue to create the best working environment and provide even better care for our patients.”
The PDA Union was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.