One Voice Pharmacy co-founder Salman Saeed told C+D on Tuesday (September 13) that “at least a few hundred” pharmacists are known to be taking part in the group’s boycott, and support on the ground had grown, “especially over the past week or so”.
“We have even had support from locum agencies,” he added.
Mr Saeed also claimed that locums choosing not to book shifts at Tesco during the boycott dates – September 10-24 – should not lose out on any money as they “continue to work at other places”.
A spokesperson for Tesco told C+D on Monday that the boycott has not affected any of its pharmacy services, and it “remains committed to offering hourly rates that are competitive within the industry”.
Mr Saeed reaffirmed to C+D that the boycott is “not just about pay”, but also to raise concerns over working conditions at the supermarket.
Mr Saeed said: “While a lot of people have stayed quiet, we want to raise awareness.”
The group alleges a lack of support for locum staff and increasing workplace pressures to conduct medicines use reviews and new medicine service interactions, to which Tesco told C+D last month (August 23): “We work hard to support our locum pharmacists and colleagues are on hand to provide help when needed.”
Linda Yearsley, managing director of agency Team Locum, which supplies locums to Tesco, among other companies, said she “waits with interest” to see what happens with the boycott.
Ms Yearsley said her organisation had heard about the boycott “from just about everybody”, but she has “not seen a significant increase” in requests for locums during the boycott dates.
“I don’t know what impact the boycott will have… but I do think there needs to be a cohesion when negotiating [pay] rates,” she said.
She calculated that locums had seen a “21% decrease [in pay] over a five-year period”, adding: “I think it is fair to say that everybody feels locums are challenged at the moment.”
Ms Yearsley said over the past few years, she has seen “a trend of people leaving the profession” prematurely, which is perhaps not surprising, after the “big change” in locum rates.
However, “good quality locums get work and at reasonable rates” she pointed out. Every locum contract is created on “an individual basis” and “in many cases” there is flexibility to negotiate pay and working hours.
“In a marketplace where [contractors or multiples] need to get their pharmacies open, there is room for negotiation,” she said. “If a locum delivers a good service, is reliable, punctual and flexible, and is asked [to work for the same organisation] again…that locum will have some bargaining power.”