Conclusion of 2021 pay negotiations with Boots UK

Following a special meeting of the PDA Union National Executive Committee (NEC) on Friday evening, the 2021 pay talks with Boots UK have been concluded. The agreed settlement will now be implemented ASAP.

Mon 20th December 2021 PDA Union

The following update has been sent to all PDA Union members at Boots, and a joint statement from the company and union confirming the details of the settlement has also been sent to all pharmacists in the bargaining unit.

To: PDA Union members employed at Boots

 

I am writing to you with a further update concerning the pay discussions with Boots.

On 9th December I wrote informing you that we were seeking an urgent meeting with the company following rejection of their final offer by a majority of those members who responded in our recent consultation. The result of that exercise was that nearly 60% of those voting rejected the offer, from a turnout of 22% of members at Boots.

That meeting with the company took place on 14th December. Unfortunately, we were not able to increase the financial aspects of the company’s offer any further.

Members will be aware that the company tabled several offers during the negotiating process. The initial offer was a package valued at 2%, and consisted solely of a 2% pay increase in common with all other employees that have a November 1st pay date.  This was rejected during meetings and through various stages of the negotiating process the offer was eventually increased to reach the package valued at 3.9% that members have just voted upon.

The revised offer included the 2% increase on pay, with an additional lump sum payable partly in January and partly in March, only for those covered by our negotiations, worth a further 0.76% of annual pay. In addition, salary increases for those in the early stages of their career and at lower end of their pay ranges, and enhanced payments for accepting shifts at short notice increased the value of the package of improvements to 3.9%. The offer also included important non-pay and zero cost items.

Members should note that all items in the package of improvements above and beyond the 2% increase only apply to those covered by our negotiations. Other employees not represented by the PDA Union (PDAU) received only the original 2% increase.

At the meeting on 14th December the company did agree to produce a statement recognising the strength of feeling there is among pharmacists about the decline in purchasing power of members income, and committed that this will be an important part of the next pay round, starting in July 2022.

Although short, the following company statement does reflect these key points:

 

“We value the contribution our pharmacists make to patients, communities and our business.

We fully acknowledge the strength of feeling among many of our pharmacists regarding the purchasing power of their salaries over recent years.

We therefore commit to ensuring that price inflation is taken into account in the 2022 pay settlement with the PDAU.”

 

The alternative to accepting the offer is for PDAU members to take some form of industrial action.  As the body empowered under the unions’ rules to consider the option of a statutory ballot on industrial action, the PDAU National Executive Committee (NEC) has now considered the situation at a special meeting called to decide the union’s response.

On the advice of myself and other senior officials the NEC decided to accept the final offer and the statement from the company and has therefore not authorised a ballot for industrial action on this occasion.

The reasons for this are

  • The objective of these discussions has been to bring a stop to the practice of pay increases falling below inflation. The case for this was set out in our original claim and can be found here. Although the overall value of this package does not meet our original target of price inflation plus 2%, it does exceed CPI in every month the negotiations have been taking place up to September 2021 and in fact is higher than CPI in every month since November 2020 (the time of the pay freeze last year) until September of this year. The pay part of the offer worth 2.76% exceeds CPI in every month from November 2020 to July 2021, when we submitted our claim. In short, had we concluded the negotiations earlier and the company had made this offer much earlier it could have met our objective.
  • For the first time since the PDAU achieved recognition, thus giving pharmacists a say in decisions about their pay, the company have acknowledged the depth of the concern about pay. The statement agreed this week means that we can be confident the most recent increases in price inflation will be a factor in the next pay round beginning in July 2022.
  • The recent increases in inflation in September and October will be reflected in the next pay claim to be submitted in late June 2022 and Boots have committed to looking at inflation as part of the next negotiations. We will be pushing the company to take positive steps to address the concerns about the purchasing power of salaries.
  • Pharmacists have received a more generous package of improvements than others employed by the company this year, a direct result of the professionalism of your negotiating team of PDAU representatives who, like you, are employed pharmacists working for Boots. Union recognition was secured in 2019 following years when pharmacists could not negotiate, the PDAU long term objectives for increased Transparency, Fairness & Equality, Respect & Recognition in the pay system were always going to take multiple years and we see progress being made each year.
  • It was felt that with the growing uncertainty around the Omicron variant and the higher profile of pharmacists in the health sector response, it would be extremely difficult to mount an effective industrial action strategy that does not appear to impact adversely on patients. Public support would be vital in winning any dispute and there is a very real concern industrial action now would not have the support of the public and place members in a very real professional and personal conflict of being forced to either support the action or reassure their patients.
  • Unfortunately, the turnout in the recent member consultation was not sufficiently high for the NEC to be confident enough members wanted to consider industrial action. Under UK law we can only legally embark on industrial action, including action short of strike, if at least 50% of eligible members vote and at least 40% of eligible members vote for action. We would therefore need around three times the number of members to vote for industrial action than rejected the offer.

For these reasons, the NEC decided that the best course of action is for the PDAU to accept the offer, ensure the increases and other parts of the offer are implemented as quickly as possible, and to ensure the statement agreed this week is used constructively in the next talks to address the ongoing issue of the purchasing power of members income.  Early preparation for the 2022 talks is already underway and members should contact their local PDAU representative with any comments or suggestions.

The full details of the 2021 pay settlement are also being communicated to all pharmacists in the bargaining unit via a joint company/union statement at 3:00pm.

We very much hope members support this course of action and recognise it has been taken in the best interests of our members during this continuing period of uncertainty.  In the meantime, every union member can strengthen the negotiating strength for the PDAU for future years by encouraging any pharmacist colleague who has not yet joined the union to do so, as soon as possible, and by engaging with future surveys, consultations and ballots.

With kindest regards

Paul Moloney
National Officer, PDA Union

Read the joint statement detailing the pay settlement

thumbnail of Joint Statement – PDAU and Boots

 

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The Pharmacists' Defence Association is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England; Company No 4746656.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is an appointed representative in respect of insurance mediation activities only of
The Pharmacy Insurance Agency Limited which is registered in England and Wales under company number 2591975
and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Register No 307063)

The PDA Union is recognised by the Certification Officer as an independent trade union.

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