The story so far, in brief…

The Pharmacist Defence Association Union (PDAU) was certified as an independent trade union in 2010.

The Pharmacist Defence Association Union (PDAU) was certified as an independent trade union in 2010. We first sought in 2011 to represent Boots pharmacists and pre-registration graduates for collective bargaining purposes. This was so that we could negotiate with Boots on your behalf to improve your working conditions and terms and conditions of employment, such as pay, hours and holiday entitlement. We wrote to Boots asking the company to voluntarily allow us to do that, but it declined, saying that it did not see Boots pharmacists as a separate interest group to other staff in its stores (we disagree; the professional requirements and needs of Boots pharmacists are entirely different to those of any other staff group).

In February 2012, we entered a formal process to gain recognition, applying to the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC). Boots asked us to withdraw our application before the deadline for discussions expired, and to meet with them to discuss whether an agreement could be reached. We did so in good faith and attended the meeting with Boots on 2 March 2012. At that meeting, Boots made no mention of the fact that the day before, on 1 March, it had met with the Boots Pharmacists’ Association (BPA) and reached an agreement with them in order to block our application.

The CAC later concluded that Boots “had been disingenuous as the Employer had deliberately misled the [PDA] Union in order to buy time to conclude arrangements with the BPA recorded in the Agreement.” In fact, the Boots Director of Stores HR admitted under cross examination that the intended effect of the agreement signed with BPA, in its totality, was to ensure that no Boots pharmacists could have any negotiating rights over their terms and conditions whatsoever.link The Stores HR director also told the CAC that in the event of any disagreement with BPA, the company’s position would prevail. Boots also stated that it had never been in dispute with the BPA; this accords with our view that the BPA is an organisation which is willing to accept the status quo, without offering meaningful challenge.

Boots’ agreement with the BPA explicitly prevents negotiation on terms and conditions such as pay, hours and holiday and is limited to the facilities for its officials (such as whether the CEO is given a new computer by the employer) and the machinery for consultation (such as the location and frequency of meetings). These things are, in our view, of very little use to Boots pharmacists. If we are successful in gaining recognition with Boots, it will be to represent the interests of Boots pharmacists and pre-regs on things that really matter to them.

As an independent union, the PDA Union continued with its application for recognition to the CAC, who determined that it could proceed. However, Boots challenged this through a judicial review, on the grounds that the agreement with the BPA could block our application. The CAC’s decision was subsequently overturned. We appealed, arguing that the human rights of Boots pharmacists were being infringed. The Court of Appeal finally determined in 2017 that this was not the case because Boots pharmacists could seek derecognition of the BPA. We were suprised to hear Boots lawyers arguing the same, throughout the legal process.

Recently, your pharmacist colleagues have done just that – applied to derecognise the BPA in order that the PDA Union could become recognised to negotiate better working conditions and terms and conditions on your behalf. Boots pharmacists and pre-registration graduates will have the opportunity to vote for a better future and an independent voice at work, shortly after 10 May 2018.

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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