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PDA Union gets green light to pursue Boots recognition

Business Government adjudicator rules that the potential level of support among Boots pharmacists for PDA Union representation was high enough to allow the union’s application to be formally recognised by the multiple to continue

The PDA Union is one step closer to victory in its legal battle to formally represent Boots pharmacists after the government's statutory adjudicator ruled that the union had a strong enough case to proceed.

The Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) decided last week (January 9) that the potential level of support among Boots pharmacists for PDA Union representation was high enough to allow the union's application to be formally recognised by the multiple to continue.

Boots and the PDA Union now have until February 6 to agree on the number of Boots pharmacists that could take up PDA Union representation if the union was formally recognised. The union said it had written to Boots to offer it the opportunity to discuss this figure.

The adjudicator decided the potential level of support among Boots pharmacists for PDA Union representation was high enough to allow the union's application for formal recognition to continue

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The CAC said that, after looking at figures submitted by Boots and the PDA Union, it was satisfied that most Boots pharmacists were likely to be in favour of the union being recognised.

The CAC's decision comes a year after it accepted PDA Union's first application. And PDA Union general secretary John Murphy told C+D last week that the union was pleased the CAC had allowed its application and remained "cautiously optimistic" that it would be successful in gaining formal recognition from Boots.

"We wouldn't have got this far if our evidence to the CAC didn't suggest we had a good chance of [Boots pharmacists] supporting us," he said.

Boots said it had nearly 7,000 pharmacists that could potentially become PDA Union members, including pre-reg pharmacists and those in non-customer facing roles.

All of these pharmacists could be balloted by the multiple at a later stage in the process to find out if they supported formal recognition of the PDA Union, Boots said.

Boots is still waiting for the results of a judicial review in October, when the multiple challenged the CAC's decision to progress the union's application and questioned the impact on its existing agreement with the Boots Pharmacist Association (BPA).

Boots last week reiterated that although it respected the "right of all colleagues to become members of a trade union of their choice", it did not believe formally recognising the PDA would be to the "wider interest" of its staff.

Last February, the CAC said it had to be satisfied that the union met the threshold of at least 10 per cent of pharmacists employed by Boots having PDA Union membership.

Should Boots recognise the PDA Union?

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Calum Nelson, Locum pharmacist

If one thing is clear from the CAC report it is just how important it is for Boots pharmacists to take whatever chance they can to show that they support the PDA being recognised and that they know they have a right to join a union that isn't reliant on the company's own management.

Miracure Pharmacist, Work for a health/commissioning consultancy company

money power !

Calum Nelson, Locum pharmacist

There's nothing certain yet, there's still the judicial review outcome to be announced and it could go either way.

Boots know that they have more money to burn than the PDA. It's a pretty clear tactic on Boots' part to burn all of the PDA's money until they can no longer fight it. This is outcome is so very important, not just for the PDA and pharmacy but for any other group of workers who find themselves manipulated, tricked and bullied by their employers. This case represents the fundamental principle behind trade unions and an organised workforce; the realisation that while the workers have less money than the bosses, there's a hell of a lot more of us than there are of them. What they can achieve with their cash, we can achieve with our people.

Meera Sharma, Community pharmacist

Fantastic news! One hopes that this will stop multiples exploiting pharmacists in every turn. Good luck with the numbers - hope it smashes expectations! Is it Lloyds next I hear??

Stephen Riley, Community pharmacist

This is certainly great news.

The PDA Union are one step closer getting formal recognition and this will certainly herald a new era in dealing with employers. Here is the link to the PDA Union article:

The PDA are in the process of agreeing the bargaining unit, basically which groups will be represented. So long as we have over 50% of this group, there will be no need for a ballot.

If they get Boots, I am sure the PDA Union will get recognition with other multiples. They are already recognised by a number of CCGs. Recognition will give us pharmacists a stronger voice. I am hopeful it will be beneficial to locums too, especially when they bring out new locum contracts and try to drop pay rates with no warning.

Well done PDA, here's to getting over the next stage.



Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist

If the BPA really is concerned about the best interests of Boots pharmacists and also wants to demonstrate that it is not the Company poodle, then it should now consider standing down and handing over to the PDA.

I feel that PDA and BPA must work together. As a past chair of BPA this must be the way forward. It is the pharmacist employees that matter and I am not clear that the current Boots hierachy understand that. The pharmacists are the core, that's why they are still allowed to call themselves Boots the Chemist, unlike any other pharmacy. I know how much BPA have done and what changes have occurred because of them, however, now is the time to work with a larger representative group

Caroline Jones, Locum pharmacist

Hooray for the PDA, I hope they get recognition. What worries me is that Boots will try and strong arm its pharmacists into not joining it in its oh so subtle ways eg blocked promotion or bonuses, staffing curbs, extra pressure on targets etc. I hope i'm wrong, but I doubt it. Anyway, why does the PDA have to 'negotiate numbers' with Boots? I thought we had free will in this democracy - or is that just not for poor bloody pharmacists!

M Yang, Community pharmacist

It's sad that Boots' pharmacists might get strong armed, but now that the PDA is on the ascent I think the last thing Boots wants is to be seen to be putting extra effort into mistreating pharmacists. If they're smart, they'll lay off with blocking promotions and enforcing unfair targets now that their pharmacists are on the way to having a bigger say in how they work.

Stephen Riley, Community pharmacist

The cynic in me would agree it is a tactic that they could take. They have gone to lengths of a Judicial Review to try and get the CAC to reverse their decision to even consider the case and previously did a back door deal with the BPA.

That said if they were found to be using strong arm tactics on employees to keep PDA out this would not help Boots' case. If they were found to be discriminating employees on grounds of PDA Union association this would breach employment law. However, doing it covertly and proving it goes on can be different things.

Stephen Walsh, Community pharmacist

Long overdue. Hope Boots will now stop wriggling and let the PDA properly represent the staff in an effective way, unlike the pseudo-union Boots Pharmacist Association.

Super Locum,

Congratulations to the PDA. This is great news!

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