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Support for Tesco locum boycott growing ‘day by day’

Tesco: “We work hard to support our locum pharmacists.”

Support is growing “day by day” for the locum boycott of Tesco after it launched last weekend, the group behind the campaign has claimed.

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.”

Agency view

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.”


Do you think the sector needs more 'cohesion'?

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

The pharmacists who say they are boycotting Tesco, are they making this known or are they cowardly hiding behind excuses for fear of being blacklisted?

Shaun Steren, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Anybody care to comment why pharmacists accept rates which they then simultaneously complain about on online forums? Does anybody on this  comments page pay well over the going rate for a plumber, for example? This isn't 2004, wake up, you are being swallowed. The 'profession' is a tenuous member of the 'technical middle class', in reality more a member of the 'new affluent worker', this might truly get through by lets say, 2018?


Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

I was reading on one forum that one school of pharmacy took A level grades CCD and possibly even CDD in clearing for pharmacy. And then people wonder why they can't do the pre-reg exam! 

Tony Donnelly, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Angela most people pass the exam, and go on to become good professionals. Grades are not everything - has any correlation ever been made between grades and pass rates. Learning your skills from your experienced peers, mentors and tutors' has far greater a bearing on things. Oh and in case you wondered, CCE and walked the exam, worked hard.

Freelance Chemist, Pre-reg Pharmacist

I wonder if the female owner of a certain agency which has "team" in its name should be held to account with regards to the Locum rates?  

Paul Miyagi, Information Technology

Why isn't the boycott period extended if it is such an issue ? Is there any intention boycott other multiples such as Boots because their working conditions put patients lives at risk ?

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Let's boycott anyone who pays less than £20/hr ! I really think for 5 yrs study and training post-A levels £20 is reasonable as a base. ................ The problem is though, if you're newly qualified then £18 an hr is better than sitting at home I suppose. 

Barry Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Do we know how this has affected Tesco? Any reports of pharmacies not being able to operate?

nawaz mohamed, Locum pharmacist

*This comment has been deleted for breaching C+D's community principles*

Jiya M, Primary care pharmacist

Linda has commented on negotiation of rates, but in my experience, Team Locum will not negotiate. Even on emergency bookings (same day), they offer a lower than average rate.

Good service, reliability, punctuality and flexibility are the cornerstones of locum work (and pharmacy!), so I dont know what she means by 'good quality locums'...perhaps the ones who do as they're told by head office/managers? 

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Ultimately, with every job I undertook it was to provide a top-rate service using my skills and knowledge. Call it professional pride in what I do. To accommodate this I have actually refused jobs in the past that I had considered undervalued. For Dispensers, the market is somewhat different I guess. Some would argue an oversaturation of the market allows this situation to occur. What do you think?

Shaun Steren, Pharmaceutical Adviser

You don't require any skills or knowledge to carry out MURs or NMS to the exacting drug tariff specification, just enough 'swagger' to get people into a room and sufficient superficiality to get the boxes ticked and signed. The rest is robotically working through the piles of baskets that are dispersed around the typical bomb site dispensary and fighting fires created by the rampant disorganisation and lack of staff. If you can do all this whilst still being liked by the staff, you will get further bookings. 

What happened in 2004 was an aberration that created an illusory longterm market for locums, for it to have lasted this long is impressive. I just wish people would stop linking quality to rates of pay - the quality standards are universally low in community pharmacy. Swagger, superficiality and cognitive dissonance will get the mortgage paid - for now.

Freelance Chemist, Pre-reg Pharmacist

*This comment has been deleted  for breaching C+D's community principles*

Bal Singh, Locum pharmacist

I wonder if Linda would care to comment on what role her agency have had on the trend of locum rates? Or whether their booking charges have decreased in trend with the locum rates?.................Only thing I would add is that people should be vigilant to report any Tesco stores which fail to fulfil their pharmacy hours, despite managment claiming the contrary.

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