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Locums to boycott Tesco over pay and conditions

Tesco said it remains committed to offering competitive hourly rates for locums.

Members of the One Voice Pharmacy group have vowed not to work for Tesco for two weeks in September in protest over rate cuts, C+D has learned.

In a note to its "around 4,000" pharmacist members, posted on the group’s Facebook page, One Voice Pharmacy said it had not received an adequate response or explanation from the supermarket, after the group contested the new rates of locum pay and raised concerns over patient safety.

“Tescos have therefore forced our hand into boycotting,” the post reads.

The boycott will take place between September 10-24, and “all locum pharmacists” are being encouraged not to book any shifts with the supermarket during this period, the group said.

“The dates have been chosen to coincide with [the religious festival] Eid and an annual meeting of Tesco managers,” Tanzeel Younas, co-founder of One Voice Pharmacy told C+D yesterday (August 18).

Mr Younas added the initiative “is not a strike” and any locums already pre-booked for those dates will have to honour those bookings.

"The last thing we want to do is for pharmacies to end up with no pharmacists," he said. "Members have opted to take those two weeks off from Tesco to prove they can get better rates and treatment elsewhere."

“In line with competitors”

In June, Tesco announced it was slashing its Monday to Friday hourly locum rate from £19.50 to £18 in certain supermarkets across the UK.

The supermarket told C+D at the time that it made the changes following a review of locum market rates.

In a letter sent to One Voice Pharmacy in July, seen by C+D, Tesco commercial manager pharmacy lead Mark Raffaitin said “multiple pharmacies [are] offering locum rates of between £18 and £24 per hour.” “Over 85% of our locums are still paid in excess of £20 per hour,” he added.

However, One Voice Pharmacy queried these claims in a followup letter, dated August 11, asking Mr Raffaitin to “share the market research and results obtained”.

“We’re trying to build a statistical analysis of locum pay rates…so that we can show graphically that the £18ph that they say is competitive, is actually not,” Mr Younas told C+D.  

Tesco response

Tesco did not confirm whether Mr Raffaitin had received the latest letter.

A spokesperson for the supermarket told C+D: “Following a recent review of locum market rates, we have made a reduction to the hourly rates we pay. We remain committed to offering hourly rates which are competitive within the industry.”

The call to action on Facebook

Will you be honouring the Tesco locum boycott?

Marc Borson, Community pharmacist


Call to Action!!!!!

A simple web search will show you what US pharmacist earn across all sectors.

I personally asked a pharmacist this question to validate the anwer given by the following site. The"(dot)" represents a "." so that he url is not filtered out on the web site. In case the links do not work its around $120,000.00 probably with healthcare.



Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Why Tesco and why the timing? As far as I am aware, independents have also been cutting their locum rates. There is nothing anyone can do until we stop new pharmacists from joining the register - locums, live with it.

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

I recommend get out while you can if it's not too late. Pharmacy is incredibly suffocating as a job and intertwined with so many regulations these days.

Graham Morris, Design

When I was running my own pharmacy, I chose my locums with great care, as they were then the face of my business. They met my patients and customers face to face, they advised the district nurses, helped my local hospice, care and nursing homes, chatted with the doctors who would call in and supported my staff in running a very busy dispensary. I understood that the quality and motivation of my locums was paramount to me being able to relax when away, secure in the knowledge that all was being done to keep my business thriving.

I paid my locums well, because without their diligence and support, I could have lost business and returned back to work with a myriad of problems to tackle. But we are not just dealing with profit here, it is the way in which loyal, hard fought for customers and patients should see a seamless transition when I was away.

My staff had bonuses that reflected our monthly turnover. That way they never complained when we were really busy, as they knew that they would be well rewarded for their hard work. I kept my staff for years; they were loyal and hard working. They made every effort to look after the business as it was in their own interest too.

I too have been a locum during my professional life. Walking into an unfamiliar dispensary and meeting the staff and trying to seamless adapt to the way in which that dispensary functioned was quite an experience. Then, at 9am, the doors opened and we were off! In at the deep end, hopefully supported by an adequate number of experienced dispensary and counter staff to “point’ me in the right direction when looking bewildered! Can I find my way around the dispensary and having found the items, can I operate the computer system? Add on top of this the additional tasks of MURs, NMS, FLU vaccinations, smoking cessation, emergency contraception, dealing with minor ailments while simultaneously keeping a very close eye on the dispensary is quite a daunting prospect. I wonder if those employers detached from the dispensary actually understand the pressure their pharmacists work under. Not only work pressure, but the financial pressures of student loans, renting or paying a mortgage, travel costs and car maintenance and pension contributions to name but a few.

From a personal point of view, I was concerned when one of my daughters decided to study piano and double bass at University and then continue on a Masters Course. Musicians have always had the reputation of having to scrape together a living and is in sharp contrast to the income I received before retiring as a community pharmacist. Now, I read of pharmacists working in intolerable conditions and having their salaries slowly eroded by employers.

Now, I find, that middle class parents are quite happy to pay my daughter well in excess of a locum pharmacist to teach their children an instrument as their schools don't offer the service. Gigs pay more per hour than sweating in a dispensary. Accompanying students taking their musical grades, playing for ballet schools, and being paid for playing in orchestras all are financially more rewarding than locum pharmacy. Most importantly, she looks forward to working in different environments, meeting like-minded people, with no more responsibility that being uncomfortable if she plays a "bum" note. I now know I was wrong to worry that she did not follow dad into pharmacy from what I observe at present.

It would appear that big business in general are so detached from the reality of the dispensary that they have little understanding of how important a locum pharmacist and employee pharmacists are to grow a business. Staff who resent their working conditions are not inclined to go the extra mile. It is easy to give a dog a bone, but see how it reacts when you attempt to take it away again.

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

Saddened for those who are just starting out and will not likely meet an individual contractor with this regard for pharmacists, just a corporate target culture with maximum extracted for the least amount they can get away with.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

We should all cut and paste this in an email to all of the big boys to show them what a decent and thoughtful employer ACTUALLY is.

Caroline Jones, Community pharmacist

Totally agree with all you have said; unfortunately, there are still students embarking on a pharmacy degree thinking it's a 'good' job. As others have said, it's the large companies cashing in on the fact there are too many pharmacists

nawaz mohamed, Locum pharmacist

Also, I think some people miss the point when they throw around supply and demand. If there are a million or a thousand pharmacists, and they all agree not to work below what is collectively deemed a professional rate for the services offered, then supply and demand become irrelevant. A pharmacy will have to pay that rate in order to operate legally.

dave k, Community pharmacist

exactly- there are other factors apart from supply and demand e.g time and cost taken to train etc. Otherwise as supply outstrips demand they might aswell go cut to the minimum wage

Gordon Mitchell, Locum pharmacist

Degrading the profession has been going on for many years. Supply and demand produced no increase in rates which is in fact a decrease. Decreases started more than a year ago. I voted with my feet and found a more lucrative self- employment ! after 43 years in pharmacy. Frankly I am disappointed to leave pharmacy but am enjoying my new venture. Good luck guys !!

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

Good luck in your new venture, I feel disappointed too but I also want to get off the sinking ship within the next couple of years before it gets even worse!

Shaun Steren, Pharmaceutical Adviser

The bottom rate is the lowest rate at which you or somebody else is willing to supply their labour. With so many pharmacists taking management positions (including relief) the amount of locum work will continue to dwindle regardless of rates. 

dave k, Community pharmacist

average tesco pay decrease £2 a hour.even on a conservative 30 hour week that is a decrease of  £3120 annually. So tempting as it may be to work during the boycott period maybe for a slighter higher rate , always look at the long term damage to the locum rate

Shaun Steren, Pharmaceutical Adviser

So what of the thousands of extra pharmacists that are graduating from the new pharmacy schools? Hourly rates are a symptom of the real 'problem' - the number of hours of employment that are available to a given number of pharmacists who wish to supply their labour. Tesco is not moving the market, it is responding to it. Many pharmacists are freely willing to supply their labour for sub £20/hr rates, employers simply wait for a critical mass to be reached at which point they codify this as a new set of standard rates. Many years ago Lloyds did try to move the market by offering lower rates in a period of pharmacist shortages - it failed. In this period of oversupply, employers are simply responding to the behaviour of pharmacists. The fallow year created a false impression for the employment prospects of pharmacists. Had it not occurred a sub £20/hr would have been standard around 2009 and would have been obvious from the early 2000s. Newly qualified pharmacists are falling over themselves to signup for low wage management positions and they are happy to work to targets. Older pharmacists are being swallowed and they don't seem to realise it. 


M Yang, Community pharmacist

In the meantime, I recommend locums use their contacts to network with each other, pass each other dates which they can't fill so that as many people get work as possible.

Stephen Eggleston, Community pharmacist

Locum rates have always been an area of contention. Everynone wants to be paid top dollar but, in an environment of supply & demand, competition on rates will occur and to suggest locums hold out for higher rates is effectively creating a cartel. Personally, I believe in treating my regular locums reasonably and, in return, I believe they do their best to make themselves available to me when I need them - mutual professional respect  

Shaun Steren, Pharmaceutical Adviser

I'm beginning to believe your posts are satirical. Create a cartel? Community pharmacy IS a cartel. Supply and demand? Supply is taxpayer subsidised, demand is government protected, there is no natural equilibrium at work. Employee/locum pharmacists have no given right to any wage. Quid pro quo contractors ought not to have any given right to control of entry. Explain to me what right you have to government protected (tax payer subsidised) net profit? 

R T, Manager

Great effort. This is a move in the right direction for pharmacists employed or self employed. I am sceptical however. I'd expect area managers to send out emails to all managers telling them not to book off holidays during this 2 week period. I don't think it's solely up to the employee to choose which holidays they can book as it will depend on the needs of the business. Looking forward to seeing the result. 

C A, Community pharmacist

Most companies need pharmacists to book their leave well in advance... for example my 2016 holidays were booked in 2015. Trying to get last minute deals or quick breaks aren't easy for pharmacists!

Boom Shakalaka, Locum pharmacist

And the dictatorial companies will tell you when you're having holidays if you haven't  given the extortionately long  notice! 

nawaz mohamed, Locum pharmacist

One Voice Pharmacy doing what a toothless PDA has failed to do in decades with regards to this specific issue, unlike the BMA et al.

Tim B, Locum pharmacist

I have not worked for Tesco for years because they are vile!!!

Tanzeel Younas, Pharmacist

Thank you all for your positive feedback! Let's really get behind this and promote it to all the pharmacist we know. The time for change is now... Let's not miss our opportunity.

dave k, Community pharmacist

Massive thumbs up re boycott. Most companies book at least two months ahead so might be worth planning ahead on the next boycott. 


Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Let's see this new organisation take on the Bank and the Shoe shop next! Social media being used for something good and useful for once!

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Good luck to One Voice Pharmacy - finally someone prepared to make a stand! I think if you can get some support behind you and make this work, a lot of other working pharmacists will join your ranks.

Paul Miyagi, Information Technology

It makes me question who votes your's and other supporting comments down . Are they for real - or should I say are they real ( of this earth ) pharmacists or corporate clowns just trying to balance the figures ( as usual )!!

Boom Shakalaka, Locum pharmacist

About time pharmacists stood up to the companies who are exploiting the  present climate  - a massive thumbs down to the locums accepting these punitive rates. 

Ebit Da, Pharmacy

Companies could find another locum who will do the shift and they may become the preferred person. If you’re not careful, you’ll undermine your own position without meaning to.

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

So what do you suggest locums do about falling rates - sit back and take it on the chin? At least they're making a stand.


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