Frequently Asked Questions

The FAQs were last updated on 25 April 2018

33. What should I do if I don’t receive my ballot paper by 14 May 2018?

If you consider that you are eligible to vote and have not received a ballot paper by 14 May 2018, or if you do not think that you are eligible to vote but receive a ballot paper, please contact the CAC Case Manager, Sharmin Khan, on 0330 109 3622. If you have recently changed your address and you have not informed Boots you should do so as soon as possible to ensure you receive your ballot paper on time.

32. Which roles are eligible to vote?

The roles eligible to vote can be seen in the image below.

These are Boots UK Registered and Pre-Registration Pharmacists at work levels 5, 6 and 7, based on data as at 27th February 2018*

Store Support / Field Roles at Level 5 Support / Field Roles at Level 6
Pre-Registration Trainee Pharmacist Pharmacy Operations & Governance Manager (POGM) Healthcare Academy Trainer
Pharmacist (Store Based) Manager (e.g. Pharmacy Operations Manager, Pharmacy Services Manager, Pharmacy Helpdesk Manager) Assistant Project Manager
Pharmacist (Relief) Healthcare Academy Delivery Manager Assistant Manager (e.g. Columbus)
Pharmacist (Care Services) Professional Standards Manager Pharmacy L&D Designer
Pharmacist (Advanced Practitioner) Professional Support Pharmacist (including Chief Pharmacist Office support roles) Assistant Marketing Manager
Assistant Manager Pharmacy L&D Manager Assistant Operations Manager
Deputy Manager Pharmacy Deployment Manager
Pharmacist Store Manager Healthcare Partnership Manager
Development Manager (e.g. Contracts & Tenders, Columbus, Dispensing Support Pharmacy)
Programme Manager
HR Partner
IT Technical Product Manager
Business Analyst
Quality & Compliance Manager

*The exact list of job titles that meet the criteria may change slightly from time to time based on normal business activities, for example vacancies, appointments, projects,
reorganisations or re-titling of roles.

31. How would PDAU collective bargaining be different from what the BPA does now?

Under the current situation, the BPA is restricted to negotiations with Boots over inconsequential matters such as whether the BPA Chief Executive gets a company laptop and the location or frequency of the BPA’s meetings with the company. These issues are of little interest to the vast majority of pharmacists and pre-registration graduates; the BPA is prohibited by the agreement it signed six years ago from collectively bargaining over any other topics. The BPA executive do not want to negotiate over your pay, hours or other working conditions; worse still, they do not want anyone else to be able to negotiate over these important matters.

Under a PDAU collective bargaining agreement with Boots, senior company managers would be obliged to put forward their pay proposals and supporting evidence to a committee comprising of company representatives and elected Boots pharmacists, who would consider the offer and seek the views of other Boots pharmacists on what is being proposed. The PDAU may provide additional evidence to support an improved pay offer and through a process of give-and-take, a mutually beneficial agreement could be reached. In the event of an impasse, there would be a defined dispute resolution process. The whole process would be far more transparent, and pharmacists would have the opportunity to input into the discussions.

30. What is “collective bargaining”?

Collective bargaining is the process of negotiation between the representatives of workers (trade unions) and the representatives of employers (senior management) covering terms and conditions such as pay, hours of work and working conditions. The negotiations are ‘collective’ because a trade union acts on behalf of the employees as a group, rather than each employee negotiating on his/her own.

Collective bargaining provides employees with a voice to negotiate on their behalf with their employers. Through give-and-take, employers and unions are able to reach an agreement that not only benefits union members, but also meets the objectives of the business. A collective agreement provides both employers and employees with certainty on the issues that have been agreed.

Collective approaches in the workplace support stronger industry standards, pensions, workforce pay and progression, safety standards, and prevalence and maintenance of workplace conditions. The trusting relationships that underpin collective bargaining unlock knowledge, aid conflict resolution and focuses on prosperity and productivity.

29. What is the difference between the Boots Pharmacists Association (BPA) and the Pharmacist Partnership Panel (PPP)?

BPA

The BPA is a non-independent union whose executive members are employed within Boots, some at a senior level. Its part time Chief Executive Office (CEO) is a former Boots executive who, when not working for the BPA, represents the interests of pharmacy contractors, including Boots.

The BPA does not want to negotiate with Boots over matters of real importance to pharmacists such as pay, hours or working conditions. Its negotiating “agreement” with the company is restricted to facilities for BPA officials and the machinery for consultation. For example, whether the CEO of the BPA gets a company laptop and where meetings with the company will be held.

Anything else that the BPA claim to have achieved for pharmacists or which the company give it credit for is only at the grace and favour of the company, as there is no statutory right for the BPA to consult or negotiate with Boots.

The derecognition application by Boots pharmacists is designed to remove the barrier that the BPA “agreement” presents to the PDA Union being recognised.

PPP

The PPP consists of pharmacists who are chosen by senior company managers. The PPP was set up by Boots around the time the PDA Union first sought formal recognition in 2012. During previous legal hearings about PDAU recognition the company tried to use the creation of the PPP as a listening forum for pharmacists, to demonstrate to the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) that there was no need for a collective bargaining agreement with the PDA Union; the CAC rejected that argument.

The PPP is supposed to feed back issues amongst pharmacists at store level to the company so that improvements can be made. Although PPP representatives may raise issues at the meetings, pharmacists inform us that awkward or controversial questions asked via their PPP representative on topics such as ACI or staff resource, go unanswered.

Indeed, the company hears similar messages through other internal communications channels such as the national forum, line management, Pharmacy Unscripted, colleague satisfaction surveys and Let’s Connect events, but doesn’t seem to get to the root of some issues where pharmacists report their concerns.

The PPP has the same problem as the BPA, in that whilst in theory it may question management decisions, the company are not obliged to engage with or respond to the issues brought to its attention. The PPP cannot take independent action to challenge corporate decisions or their consequences.

PDA Union View

The PDA Union believes that both PPP and BPA representatives, whilst they may be well meaning, are very limited in their ability to secure any real change for pharmacists, due to the constraints of the one sided relationship that both organisations have with the company.

Boots is fighting hard to promote both the BPA and the PPP as the voice of its pharmacists, in the hope that this will weaken support for the derecognition of the BPA and subsequent recognition of the PDA Union. Whenever Boots perceives a threat from the PDA Union it starts to heavily promote the virtues of both the BPA and the PPP as effective mechanisms for addressing issues amongst its pharmacists. As soon as the threat goes away, the focus and attention given by the company to these organisations and pharmacists rapidly diminishes. This happened in 2012 when the PDA Union first applied for formal recognition.

Pharmacists can judge for themselves whether their working conditions and terms of employment have improved over the last 5 years under the relationship that the BPA and PPP have with Boots.

As described in earlier FAQs and in stark contrast to the position of the PPP and BPA, Boots would be legally obliged to engage with and respond to the PDA Union on matters that fell under a collective bargaining agreement, such as pay, hours and other working conditions. Such bargaining arrangements are your right under UK law and these rights are currently being denied by the arrangement between Boots and the BPA.

The PDA Union with its independent resources, expert lawyers and communications channels can, if necessary, challenge the company on behalf of members and secure fair outcomes for pharmacists on matters of real importance.

Recognition of the PDAU as an independent union is important, as this helps balance the relationship between pharmacists and the company, which at present is heavily tipped in favour of Boots.

28. The BPA has told me that it has an agreed process with Boots to speed up rectifying an obvious wrong, by the CEO of the BPA dealing directly with the Heads of Customer Experience or the Divisional Director. The BPA claims to have intervened on many occasions with senior Boots leaders when evidence of injustice was present and had the processes quashed. Is this right?

Boots employees may find the BPA’s statement that they “…have an agreed process with Boots to speed up rectifying an obvious wrong…” of concern. It begs the questions, obvious to who? in whose opinion? and suggests the right or wrong of situations is somehow predetermined. The PDAU believes in fairness and justice in the workplace. Allegations should be properly investigated and pharmacists either making a complaint or subject to one, should have professional and effective representation to ensure their rights are respected and that a fair process is always followed to help ensure a just outcome.

The BPA approach to employment and professional issues is unorthodox and does not form part of any company disciplinary or grievance policy. It appears to rely on something akin to the “old boys network” where Paul Robinson the CEO of the BPA, himself a former Boots senior manager, contacts senior colleagues to personally intervene. Regardless of any agreed process being in place, this mechanism is ineffective and fraught with problems, including having the potential to severely compromise the employment rights of the pharmacist involved. The BPA relationship relies on discretionary favours being granted and strings being pulled behind closed doors – it is heavily biased in favour of the company and lacks any transparency.

For example, a BPA member closed a pharmacy temporarily when there were serious staffing issues. The pharmacist was suspended by Boots, escorted off the premises by a security guard, then put through a gruelling investigation and disciplinary process by company managers. The BPA executive were involved at an early stage and said they had escalated the situation to the highest level; however, the pharmacist remained suspended for several weeks and was threatened with disciplinary action up to and including a final written warning, despite the early intervention of the BPA with its “agreed process” to stop injustices.

The pharmacist became disillusioned with the advice from the BPA and asked the PDA Union to represent them at the disciplinary meeting. After PDA Union intervention, where the obvious weaknesses and bias in the disciplinary case were highlighted, the allegations were dropped completely. The pharmacist believes that had they continued to rely upon the BPA for support or representation using its “special relationship”, that a severe disciplinary sanction would have been the most likely outcome.

Something is fundamentally wrong if a leading global pharmacy chain has so many obvious injustices which involve pharmacists in the workplace, that a special process, which operates completely outside the protection of employment processes, is needed.

The PDA Union, once recognised, would negotiate with Boots to put in place proper and legitimate processes to stop “injustices” happening in the first place and prevent pharmacists being put in difficult situations, where their professional autonomy is compromised. We believe that tackling the root cause of the problem is the most effective approach.

27. If the PDAU was recognised and there was a widespread dispute between pharmacists and the company such as the cuts to premium pay, would pharmacists go on strike?

The PDAU is a modern progressive union set up by and run for pharmacists. Pharmacists are not traditionally a militant profession and any strike or other industrial action would require a democratic mandate that is strictly controlled by legislation. Pharmacists in Boots would decide on whether to take any industrial action.

Where there are opposing points of view, the PDA Union firmly believes in the power of persuasion through reasoned and evidence-based discussions. For example, the PDAU believes that had a collective bargaining agreement been in place when Boots cut premium pay for pharmacists, a long drawn out court battle, where Boots was found to have acted unlawfully, could have been avoided and a negotiated solution reached. Unfortunately, Boots refused to engage in a collective dialogue with the PDAU on the cuts and many Boots pharmacists were then reluctantly forced to take their employer to court to seek compensation.

Some topics that would fall under a collective bargaining agreement are integral to the safe and effective provision of pharmacy services. It is in the common interest of Boots, pharmacists and patients for there to be a constructive and challenging dialogue about how these pharmacy services are delivered to maintain and enhance patient safety. The PDAU has the necessary expertise and independence to support such a dialogue.

The PDAU wants Boots pharmacists to be treated fairly and with respect at work and to have job security, fair reward and a good working environment. The PDAU supports pharmacists to put patient safety and professional standards first as clinical, autonomous health professionals.

The PDAU believes that it can forge a constructive relationship with Boots, built on transparency and proper pharmacist engagement, to ensure those things become reality for all its pharmacists.

26. If the PDAU was recognised by Boots, what would be different?

A collective bargaining or procedural agreement provides a structured framework for negotiations over topics such as the annual pay review or other matters of importance to pharmacists. Such an arrangement can be agreed between the employer and the independent union, or the CAC can impose one.

For example, Boots would be legally obliged to involve the PDAU at an early stage with its pay proposals and share the evidence that supports its position. There is a statutory code of practice which gives independent trade unions the right to seek a raft of information for the purposes of negotiating over key topics; a failure to comply by the employer allows the union to present a claim to the CAC for improved terms and conditions, where in certain circumstances the CAC can order an employer to implement. The BPA has none of these powers and this may explain why Boots prefers to maintain its relationship with the BPA and is fighting hard to keep the status quo.

The PDAU, through a democratic representative structure within Boots, would be able to review the company evidence and seek feedback from Boots pharmacists on the proposals. The PDAU could commission its own independent research to present to the company as part of any counter-proposals on the pay award and submit other evidence in support of pharmacists’ views. The PDAU has knowledge of the terms and conditions for all major pharmacy employers and is therefore in an advantageous position to take an industry-wide view.

It is important to remember one of the primary objectives of the PDA Union is:

“To protect the Terms & Conditions of the Members individually (or collectively) and where appropriate secure adequate remuneration for their services and improvements in their conditions and material wellbeing”

By a process of negotiation and compromise on both sides, a pay award that is fair and reasonable could be reached which reflects the contribution that pharmacists make to the success of the company. If agreement could not be reached because it lacked majority support from Boots pharmacists, there would be a defined dispute resolution process in place to follow. This could involve an independent third party such as ACAS.

Neither the BPA nor Boots want there to be any negotiations over pay or other important issues for pharmacists and have collaborated to block anyone else from being able to do so. Therefore, derecognising the BPA is the necessary first step to being able to negotiate over your pay and conditions.

Currently, Boots senior executives decide what the pay award is going to be and then inform the BPA and Boots pharmacists of the decision. The reality is that regardless of any representations the BPA may make, no negotiations take place and the company’s view always prevails. This position has been confirmed by a senior Boots executive at an earlier hearing before the CAC.

25. Boots and the BPA seem to be working closely together to try to defeat this application. What is the true nature of the relationship between them?

The Trades Union Certification Officer reached the following conclusion on the relationship when the BPA applied for a Certificate of Independence:

“It is rather by stepping back from the detail of the relationship between the BPA and Boots and looking at the picture as a whole that there emerges, in my judgment, a clear image of a union that has over the years been drawn into a situation in which it is indeed liable to interference by Boots. I find that such vulnerability is evidenced, inter alia, by the BPA’s weak financial base, its dependence on the goodwill of Boots to continue the check off arrangements, its lack of any detailed contingency plans should Boots discontinue that arrangement, its promotion by Boots to new employees as well as its receipt of financial and other support. Whether or not the BPA could survive the withdrawal of such support is not the issue. I must consider whether the threat of its withdrawal or serious curtailment place the Union in a position that it is liable to interference tending towards domination or control. For the above reasons, I find that the BPA is liable to such interference. In all the circumstances before me, I find that the BPA is not an independent trade union within the meaning of section 5 of the 1992 Act.”

24. I’ve heard that Boots operates a forced distribution for deciding the split of how many pharmacists are graded as “not performing”, “performing” and “legendary”. Is this correct?

The PDAU has seen company documents which seem to confirm that this is the case. The company says that it encourages open feedback and debate; therefore pharmacists could always ask their manager to confirm the total percentage split for each performance category in the 2016 pharmacist pay review.

23. In a recent company update on derecognition, Boots has told me that it plans to provide an annual pay rise for pharmacists this year as it has done for the past 5 years. I didn’t get a pay rise last year as I was told I was paid above the market rate. Will I get a pay rise now?

We believe this statement from Boots has the potential to cause confusion. We understand that the salary for newly qualified pharmacists has remained static for the last 3 years at least and there has been no pay rise for that group. Pharmacists who are above the median rate in the Market Based Pay (MBP) scales may also not receive a pay rise, even if graded as “legendary”.

In view of the recent company statement on pay, pharmacists who did not receive a pay rise last year due to MBP principles are advised to check with their line manager whether they will be eligible to get a pay rise this year.

22. What if I want the PDAU to be recognised without the BPA being derecognised?

The way that the law on trade union recognition works means that the agreement the BPA made with Boots prevents the PDAU from being recognised. In fact, under cross examination at a previous hearing, the Boots Director of Stores HR admitted that the agreement with the BPA was designed, in totality, to ensure pharmacists at Boots could not have negotiating rights over their terms and conditions. So, for the PDAU to be recognised, pharmacists first need to vote for the BPA to be derecognised – removing the blocking agreement it set up with Boots in 2012. Derecognising the BPA doesn’t stop the BPA from existing or from working with the company, so it could continue to serve its members (it has done that for 39 of the last 44 years without that agreement in place). The PDAU would be prepared to find ways of working with the BPA after its derecognition that best support pharmacists at Boots.

21. The debate is currently about collective bargaining over pay, hours and holidays – whilst important, what about my health, safety and welfare at work?

The PDAU sees recognition as being more than the basic terms and conditions of employment; many issues raised by Boots pharmacists also relate to their health & safety at work and general welfare. Pharmacists are very reliant upon their employer to provide competent support staff to deliver a safe and effective pharmacy service. A lack of resource can increase the health and safety risk to pharmacists, pharmacy colleagues and patients alike.

If pharmacists vote for the derecognition of the BPA and the recognition of the PDAU, we would appoint a network of health & safety representatives. Their role is independent of management as they are there to represent the interests and concerns of their colleagues. The company is legally obliged to provide health and safety representatives with paid time to carry out their duties and undergo relevant training for this role.

20. What does the PDAU know about pharmacy outside of Boots?

In addition to the members who currently work at Boots, the PDAU has thousands of other members across the UK. We listen to them about their experiences of pharmacy and so we are well informed about the realities of working in modern pharmacy practice. We are able to support members throughout their career as a pharmacist, wherever they work.
We are the only independent trade union in the UK exclusively for pharmacists. We were set up for pharmacists, by pharmacists. Alongside our work supporting individuals with their workplace situations, we are constantly interacting with other organisations and bodies about matters that impact upon our members. This includes the government, regulators, employers and other unions. Examples of our consultation responses can be found here: https://www.the-pda.org/archive/consultations/
The PDAU is also the only UK member of the EPhEU (European Association of Employed community Pharmacists in Europe), which is the first Europe-wide organisation representing the interests of employed community pharmacists.

19. What does the PDAU know about Boots?

Firstly, we listen to the Boots pharmacists that are already our members and help them with any individual issues or queries. Secondly, many of our elected representatives and our employed team have, or still do, work at Boots. There has probably not been a day since the PDAU was formed that we haven’t been helping at least one Boots member with an issue somewhere in the country. So, we believe we are very aware of what it means for pharmacists to work at Boots and our members are happy to confide in us, because we are truly independent from the employer.
We help our members raise concerns about situations they face and give the company every reasonable opportunity to put things right. Under UK law, we can already represent members through processes such as disciplinary and grievance hearings. We know that some issues may be best resolved informally, locally and at an early stage and we should be able to do more of that once we are recognised. We would also be well placed to help Boots senior management prevent issues arising in the first place and we are aware that some issues need to be addressed at a company level.
We know that trade unions and management working together should be able to avoid situations escalating into disputes. However, where the company chooses not to correct unfair treatment internally, we are able to support our members through external processes such as tribunals where necessary. We already do this and have secured significant financial settlements for members treated unfairly, running into hundreds of thousands of pounds through in-court and out-of-court agreements. We are not aware of the BPA ever supporting any of its members through an employment tribunal when they have been mistreated by the company.

18. Does my employer work with independent trade unions in other parts of the business?

Yes. Other parts of the Walgreens Boots Alliance group, including Alliance Healthcare and Boots Logistics, have successful recognition agreements with external and certified independent trade unions. Walgreens Boots Alliance also has successful recognition agreements with pharmacist trade unions in America.

17. Does the PDAU speak, and act, on behalf of pharmacists at Boots?

The PDAU is the voice of individual pharmacists. The PDAU is not affiliated to any political party or under the influence of any external body. Its independence from employers is certified by the trades union Certification Officer. That same organisation, on refusing the BPA’s request for a certificate of independence, noted that the BPA is “liable to interference, tending towards domination or control” by Boots.

The PDAU has significantly more members currently employed at Boots than the BPA has in total membership. If it gains recognition, the PDAU would introduce a democratic structure where Boots pharmacists and pre-regs can decide who among themselves will act as their representatives, supported by union officials and infrastructure. There is no reason that this group could not work as closely with the company as the BPA does now, but the difference would be that a PDAU committee would also have the full resources of the PDAU behind them so could confidently negotiate over any changes that the company wishes to implement. At present the Boots view prevails, regardless of anything the BPA, the PPP or anyone else has to say.

16. Will derecognition of the BPA end a 40+ year period of successful employee relations at Boots?

Current and previously employed pharmacists will no doubt have their own experiences and opinions on how terms and conditions have changed at Boots since 1973, when the BPA was established. As a major player in UK community pharmacy, changes at Boots have often influenced and set the market standards and not just followed an external market. An example of the difference between the BPA and PDAU can be seen in the approach to premium payment cuts at Boots, where the PDAU successfully secured compensation for pharmacists when Boots acted unlawfully and cut pay. The BPA told its members that the cuts were lawful. https://www.the-pda.org/boots-premium-payments/

The relationship between Boots and the BPA has existed for 39 of the last 44 years without the current recognition agreement. It is this agreement which is the subject of the legal application. The agreement was only introduced in 2012 when the PDAU was getting very close to securing recognition. Under cross examination, the Boots Director of Stores HR admitted the agreement with the BPA was designed, in totality, to ensure pharmacists at Boots could not have negotiating rights over their terms and conditions.

It’s inaccurate to suggest that recognising the PDAU would end line management arrangements, the PPP internal consultation mechanism or stop the continued existence of the BPA. The PDAU wants to improve employee relations by ensuring Boots pharmacists have an independently informed and resourced trade union able to represent their views and where necessary act on their behalf. We welcome the company’s statement that they too want to improve matters for employees and patient safety; we share that objective.

We believe derecognition will herald a new era in improved employee relations that gives pharmacists an effective voice in the workplace, that will be listened to.

15. Is this application just a recent action by a few pharmacists?

No, sadly Boots has been blocking its pharmacist and pre-reg employees for many years from having an independent trade union to represent their views. The PDAU has been working hard for pharmacists and pre-regs at Boots, both informally and through the courts to resolve this. Earlier this year, the Court of Appeal confirmed that the next step for Boots pharmacists was that one or more of them could lodge an application to the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) to derecognise the BPA: https://www.the-pda.org/press-release-update-on-pdau-recognition-with-boots/

Boots itself agreed at the Court of Appeal that pharmacists could seek recognition of the PDAU by first derecognising the BPA. This step is only necessary because the BPA decided to become a “sweetheart union” and signed up to a blocking agreement with Boots. This is where a non-independent union joins forces with an employer to prevent employees from being able to negotiate over their pay, hours and working conditions through an independent union. Boots behaviour in hastily securing this “sweetheart deal” has previously been described as disingenuous by the Central Arbitration Committee.

Although the law only required one signature, six pharmacists jointly made the application. It’s important to note that since the application was made public, many hundreds more Boots pharmacists have explicitly pledged their support for the application.

14. The PDAU and the BPA are both Unions, what’s the difference?

A. Quite a lot. Click here for further information.

13. Why is the PDAU focusing on union recognition at Boots when there is so much more going on that affect pharmacists?

A. We want all pharmacists, wherever they are employed, to be properly treated at work, with reasonable working conditions and a fair reward. We want to see patient safety coming before profit, always. Boots is the largest pharmacy multiple and so getting things better there will not only directly impact on a considerable number of pharmacists, but will also have an influence across the whole sector.

We are dealing with employment disputes at Boots all the time and know that prevention is much better than cure. A recognition agreement would mean the union working closely with Boots to improve working conditions and the treatment of pharmacists which can only be of benefit to pharmacists, Boots and importantly, patients.

We don’t only help individuals or groups with their issues or concerns, we do a lot more in addressing the other matters that affect pharmacists too, such as employment rights, pharmacy regulation and government policy. We are a growing union with 25,000+ members including over 2300 employed by Boots and we are the voice of individual pharmacists across the UK.

12. Where can I find out what my colleagues think about the derecognition application?

A. Boots has a discussion forum called PharmacyUnscripted, open to all Boots employed pharmacists and pre-registration graduates (www.pharmacyunscripted.co.uk). We encourage pharmacists and pre-reg graduates to contribute to the debate, although we recognise that some may be reluctant to do so for fear of retribution or damage to their career prospects. The Central Arbitration Committee (the independent government body that oversees union recognition processes) is aware of such issues from the previous application for PDAU recognition and have previously said:

The Panel notes the somewhat isolated working arrangements of the workers in the proposed bargaining unit and the widespread knowledge of the Employer’s [Boots] opposition to the Union’s application and that both are likely to be a deterrent to making supportive views known. Of course there may be some who keep their views against recognition to themselves, for fear of upsetting those in support, but on balance the Panel concludes that amongst the non-members of either organisation [PDAU/BPA], those who support recognition would have more reason to keep quiet than those who oppose it.

Before the legal challenge was successful and Boots blocked the recognition process, the CAC had considered the PDAU’s application for recognition and permitted it to progress to the stage where a secret ballot was due to be held of all the pharmacists in the bargaining unit. The full acceptance decision by the CAC can be found by clicking here.

11. How many members does the BPA have?

A. The latest figures available for 2016 indicate 1253 members, which we understand includes all Boots pre-registration graduates who are automatically made members.

10. What is the PDAU’s view on staffing levels?

A. Any pharmacy business should have a robust model to allocate sufficient funding to support the safe operation of the pharmacy. This model should be transparent so the Responsible Pharmacist can have confidence that the budget/staffing levels allocated are safe and match the workload. The PDAU believe that staffing levels/budgets must be driven by workload and reflect the realities of running a pharmacy. Holidays, training time, local salary variations and other foreseeable events must be factored in.

The time standards for each pharmacy activity should be available to pharmacists to help them make decisions about appropriate staffing levels for their pharmacy.

9. My employer has told me that in order to best serve the interests of the pharmacy and wider Boots colleague population, the company believe it is essential to build great relationships between pharmacists, their line managers and their local team. Will recognising the PDAU be a barrier to having “great relationships”?

A. No, certainly not. We do not understand why Boots would think that PDAU recognition would impact on local relationships. The PDAU believe that recognition would actually improve relationships, because pharmacists would feel better supported and more in control of the pharmacy, as well as having greater confidence in any pay and reward schemes negotiated through the PDAU. Other members of the pharmacy team and the wider Boots colleague population are at liberty to join a union of their choice and seek similar recognition arrangements.

8. Can the company treat me differently if I support the PDA Union?

A. Boots, the BPA and the PDAU will never know how you vote in the derecognition or recognition ballots – these are done by a secret postal ballot. Pledges of support that pharmacists have given to us will also never be released to Boots.

If you do let other people know how you voted and Boots becomes aware of this, it would be unlawful for Boots to treat you less favourably as a consequence. The company must also not engage in any unfair practices in relation to the ballots. Companies are prevented from offering you inducements to vote in a particular way or to abstain from voting, coercing you to find out whether or how you intend to vote or subjecting you or anyone you know to any other detriment or threatening to do so.

We do not expect that the company will engage in unfair practices or subject any pharmacist or pre-registration graduate to unfavourable treatment as a result of supporting the PDA Union during the derecognition and recognition processes.

It is important that you let us know immediately if you become concerned that the company may have acted inappropriately towards you as a result of your Union membership or support for a Union. If you are not a PDAU member, we may still be able to offer some advice.

7. What happens to the BPA if it is derecognised?

A. If the BPA is derecognised, we would still want to work with BPA officials and existing BPA members to ensure the interests of Boots pharmacists were represented in the best way possible. The PDA Union has initiated discussions of a merger with the BPA several times over the years, but the BPA has always chosen instead to maintain its close links with company management, through a consultative relationship which we believe is ineffective. We would remain open to a merger with the BPA to form a stronger, united organisation to represent Boots pharmacists. This could include, for example, the BPA officials forming a division of the PDA Union to represent Boots pharmacists. Alternatively, if the BPA did not wish to do this, it could maintain its existing consultative relationship with the company, but without the formal agreement in place with Boots (this is how the BPA operated prior to establishing the agreement in 2012). You can read more about the nature of the agreement between Boots and the BPA by clicking here.

6. What about applying for recognition with other pharmacy multiples?

A. The PDAU has a strategic objective to seek formal recognition across a number of pharmacy employers. The Union Executive decided to approach Boots first as a pilot scheme in order to facilitate progress in other organisations. If the PDAU is successful in getting recognised by Boots, this will accelerate progress in becoming recognised in other organisations.

5. What happens if the PDAU does not receive the required level of support?

A. If we do not gain recognition with Boots, we will continue to represent Boots pharmacists as we do now – in many successful challenges to unfair performance gradings and disciplinaries and supporting them in raising grievances where necessary. However, we believe that a failure due to lack of support would be a wasted opportunity for Boots pharmacists to exercise their choice and have real influence with their employer regarding their pay, working conditions and terms of employment.

4. I am receiving conflicting information from the BPA, who do I believe?

A. The CAC is an independent body with statutory powers, whose role is to resolve disputes. It has made findings of fact and observations about the PDA Union, Boots and its relationship with BPA. For an unbiased view, pharmacists should study the CAC decision which can be found here. The PDAU has been through a rigorous inspection process and been granted a Certificate of Independence. The BPA is not an independent trade union and may be misleading its members if it suggests that it is one.

3. What can the PDAU do that is different to the BPA?

A. The BPA does not want to negotiate with Boots on terms and conditions such as pay, hours and holiday. The agreement that BPA has signed with the company specifically excludes such negotiations. Their agreement is limited in scope and negotiations are restricted to facilities for BPA officials and the machinery for consultation – for example, whether the Chief Executive receives a company laptop and when or where meetings with the company take place.

The BPA advised its members that the cuts to premium pay in 2011 were lawful. In contrast, the PDAU supported a challenge by a significant number of Boots pharmacists through the employment tribunal service and won the case, which has benefitted many Boots pharmacists.

The PDAU has a proven track record in ensuring that the interests of Boots pharmacists are protected, including defending pharmacists called to disciplinary meetings or supporting them at grievances. The PDAU routinely defends the professional autonomy of pharmacists employed by Boots and stops the unfair application of performance improvement plans or imposition of unreasonable targets.

The PDAU is also independent of Boots and can provide external perspective and challenge where necessary. The BPA is not an independent union and relies on Boots for support, so there is a potential conflict when it comes to challenging the company on behalf of pharmacists.

Further information on the differences between the PDAU and the BPA can be found here.

2. What will change if the PDAU is successful in gaining recognition?

A. The PDAU will be able to collectively bargain with Boots on behalf of pharmacists regarding their terms of employment, hours, pay & holidays in order to secure the best outcome for pharmacists. At present, the company unilaterally decides on these matters and the BPA has signed an agreement to confirm that it cannot negotiate in these areas.

If the PDAU was successful, an independent resolution process would be put in place in the event that an agreement could not be reached between Boots and the Union. Negotiations would extend to working conditions and other matters that impact on patient safety and the professional autonomy of pharmacists. We believe that our involvement will significantly strengthen the status of pharmacists within Boots and help ensure their views are effectively represented at the highest level.

1. I am not a member of the PDAU, why should I bother voting to derecognise the BPA?

A. The PDAU believes that pharmacists should be given the choice as to whether they want an independent union to collectively bargain with the company for their terms and conditions of employment such as pay, hours and holiday. Boots and the BPA do not want pharmacists to be given that choice and are actively preventing collective bargaining by signing an agreement which explicitly precludes it. If Boots pharmacists do not derecognise the BPA, they may never have the freedom to chose their own destiny or any effective influence over their pay and working conditions.

The PDA Union already has the right to represent its members at disciplinaries and grievances, but many Boots pharmacists have told us they would like us to also have the right to collectively bargain for their terms and conditions of employment (such as pay, hours and holiday) and to be able to negotiate better working conditions for them.

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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