Boots pharmacists have until March 8 to cast their vote to decide if their pay, hours and holiday will be collectively negotiated by the PDA Union, following last year’s “derecognition” of Boots’ own union – the Boots Pharmacists’ Association.
The ballot marks the final stages of the long-running dispute, which dates back to 2012, when the PDA Union called for official recognition from Boots, after alleging the multiple's staff employment terms were being “gradually eroded”.
PDA Union national officer Paul Day told C+D this morning (February 18) if pharmacists vote to recognise the union, it would be “different from anything that has happened at Boots before”.
The PDA Union has pledged to “serve pharmacists and make things better for them”. As well as negotiating their pay, holiday and “other matters”, the union will appoint a network of health and safety officers to address issues such as pharmacist stress and support those with poor mental health, he added.
Any Boots pharmacists who choose to have the PDA Union represent them “get the legal protection of being a trade union representative, and they’ll have the time and support that the law gives them”, Mr Day said.
“It’s a completely different game to all the internal mechanisms that Boots has used over the years,” he claimed.
Boots: “We’re stronger talking directly to each other”
Boots UK pharmacy director Richard Bradley told C+D the “best way” the multiple can “create more clinical opportunities” for pharmacists “is by having a direct relationship with our pharmacists, and making sure all our pharmacists’ voices are fairly and equally represented”.
“We hope as many [Boots pharmacists] as possible will take the time to consider the options in front of them and agree we’re stronger talking directly to each other, rather than through a third party that will slow us down and add extra complexity to our business,” Mr Bradley added.
“Joint negotiation committee”
Boots announced earlier this month (February 6) it would launch a “joint negotiation committee” as alternative representation for its pharmacists if they vote to reject the PDA Union.
The committee would have full negotiation rights, including on strategy, pay, hours and holiday, and will be made up of regional representatives elected annually, the multiple said.
“We’ve listened to and know pharmacists want change at Boots. They want a greater voice and say on issues that relate to their pay, but also want a say in the future direction of pharmacy,” Mr Bradley told C+D.
“That’s why if pharmacists vote ‘no’, we’re proposing the Boots joint negotiating committee – a new body with elected representatives and an independent chair – and we have also offered consultative seats to members of both the PDA Union and the BPA,” he added.
The PDA claimed it has already received complaints from Boots pharmacists that the committee proposal shows “total disregard for their previous vote”.
“There are only two outcomes”
Mr Day said the “important” detail about the ballot is that “there are only two outcomes”. Either pharmacists “recognise the PDA Union” or they “can’t start the process again for another three years”, he said.
Boots’ proposal to launch the “joint negotiation committee” is a “ complete distraction”, Mr Day told C+D.
“That is not what is on the ballot. The ballot is simply to recognise the PDA Union or be blocked for another three years.”