COVID-19 VACCINATIONS: If, in addition to indemnity for your main employment, you would like cover for delivering COVID-19 Vaccinations please apply for our standalone extension Apply Today

Home  »   Latest News   »   Being involved in your union is good for your professional development

Being involved in your union is good for your professional development

Getting more involved in your trade union is good for your professional life, providing opportunities to learn new skills, widen your experience and to progress your career.

Wed 2nd November 2022 The PDA

All pharmacists, other than those who are owners of businesses that employ other pharmacists, are invited to join the PDA. Joining an independent trade union provides you with many elements of individual support at work, should you need it, and it strengthens the reach and resources of the union to do more good work for the entire profession.

However, the benefits of PDA membership do not stop there, and more and more PDA members are getting more involved in the union’s activity leading them to develop more skills and widen their professional horizons.

Kate Kensington, Head of PDA Education said, “PDA Education provides development for members and representatives that helps them with practice as well as other areas of life. Training is bespoke to PDA members and representatives, is delivered face to face or online, at the right pace for our members and provides opportunities to network with pharmacists from different sectors and areas of the UK. Representatives can share experiences, offer support, learn from one another, as well as engage with the course, which means they are more able to perform their roles on behalf of members”.

Opportunities to get involved

For example, last month development opportunities for PDA representatives included attendance at a residential training course on negotiation skills.

Daniela Rusalim, Boots Rep for the Eastern Region and Vice President of the NAWP Committee commented, “I enjoyed participating in the negotiation course and I learnt a lot from it. The content was high quality, well organised and very informative. The highlight of the course was taking part in a case scenario, where we all had to use our newly acquired knowledge and skills. The case was challenging and took us out of our comfort zone, but it provided us with good learning opportunities. Encouragement for critical reflection was provided throughout the course, which helped consolidate the learning.”

Meanwhile at the Pharmacy Show in Birmingham, PDA Union Representative Aneil Nath was one of several PDA members speaking in theatre sessions. In one of his contributions Aneil said, “There is a myth that being involved in the union might damage your career, the opposite is true.  Look at me here presenting at the Pharmacy Show about my views on careers.  This is not something I would be doing if I had not volunteered to get involved in the Union.

In Brighton, Trade Unionists from around Britain assembled for the annual Trades Union Congress, which had been delayed by a month due to the passing of HM Queen.

Alisdair Jones, PDA Union Treasurer was an attendee and explained, “Congress overall was an eye opener, and it was a unique chance to meet and talk to other health professionals, and those from other sectors, about shared issues. I also caught up with a former Consultant who I worked with in Hospital who is now a Trade Union General Secretary and attended an extremely informative session about the upcoming inquiry into how government managed the Pandemic.

In Scotland, PDA delegate and Regional Committee member Chand Kausar commented about her attendance at the STUC Black Workers conference, To be in a room full of people that were the minority with different cultures, backgrounds and were there still trying to make a change – was both moving and inspiring. To be in an inclusive space where everyone understood each other’s struggles and supported each other was lovely. Initially, I wondered why this space had all the people that are likely to already be aware of the issues instead of raising awareness with people who may not know. But when I was speaking to the room, I could see it was so that everyone had a chance to speak, to have their voice heard, and delegates wanted to speak in a space that felt safe and understood. As pharmacists there has never been any real conversations around the role of trade unions or workers’ rights much less rights as a black pharmacist, until now.”

PDA LGBT+ Committee President, Scott Rutherford recently became PDA NEC member for students and NQs. Scott has led a committee who have been influential in the positive change to a more inclusive MPharm curriculum. Scott said, “Being President of the PDA LGBT+ Network has given me a platform from which to affect change, especially with regards to inclusive education. However, it has also developed my confidence, given me an introduction to the skills required of a leader, and allowed me to network with a range of pharmacists and people from far and wide.”

Later in October in Paris, France, a delegation of PDA pharmacists joined colleagues from across Europe for the annual congress of EPhEU which was in person again for the first time in several years.

The PDA delegation included Emma Richmond, a locum pharmacist and PDA Regional Committee member said, The EPhEU Conference was an informative event and networking opportunity. As a locum pharmacist I value dialogue with other pharmacists. I have had the opportunity to debate professional issues with European colleagues representing many tens of thousands of pharmacists and agreeing how we can collectively improve matters. How else would I be able to contribute and share members’ views in this way other than through my union? Being involved in the PDA is a positive experience.”

Becoming a PDA Union Representative means individual volunteers receive training, build networks and can get involved in some of the types of activity detailed above, not just with the PDA directly but also through the federations of which PDA is part, many of whom also have conferences, hold webinars and publish literature which are available to PDA members.

The skills developed by being active in a trade union can be used in other parts of life, including management, community activity and politics. However for most Union representatives, it simply builds their general confidence and competence for life overall.

The wider trade union movement

Outside of the PDA, there are many other hundreds of trade union representatives and committee members who have progressed to roles of influence in their sector or profession through becoming involved with their trade union and progressing into more senior elected posts, for example Louise Atkinson a primary teacher from Cumbria, became the youngest President of the National Education Union, representing half a million members, after beginning her activism as a student rep.

Several individuals have reached the very peak of national trade union roles. Last month Owen Reidy began his office as the new General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and Paul Nowak a former call centre operator and hotel night porter was confirmed as the General Secretary designate for the British TUC. Paul will replace Frances O’Grady when she steps down at the end of the year*. Dr Maria Exall, a former carer for those with learning difficulties, who joined the Communication Workers Union when she became a telecoms engineer, was elected as the British TUC’s President this year.

*When she steps down from the TUC, Frances O’Grady will be joining the House of Lords.

Of course, not everyone will become a national trade union leader and neither Louise, Owen, Paul, Maria or Frances will have expected that is where their career would lead them when they first got involved in their trade union, but they are further examples of how amazingly career-enhancing trade union activism can be.

Not yet a PDA member?

If you have not yet joined the PDA, we encourage you to join today and ask your colleagues to do the same.

Membership is FREE to pharmacy students, trainee pharmacists and for the first three months of being newly qualified.


Read about our key member benefits here.



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.

Cookie Use

This website uses cookies to help us provide the best user experience. If you continue browsing you are giving your consent to our use of cookies.

General Guidance Resources Surveys PDA Campaigns Regulations Locums Indemnity Arrangements Pre-Regs & Students FAQs Coronavirus (COVID-19)