History – Timeline

The Pharmacist Defence Association Union (PDAU) first sought to represent Boots pharmacists and pre-registration graduates for collective bargaining purposes in 2011. This was so we could negotiate on your behalf for better working conditions and terms and conditions of employment, such as pay, hours and holiday. Boots took steps to block this.

Scroll down the page to see a history of the PDAU campaign to collectively bargain on behalf of Boots pharmacists for their pay, hours and holiday entitlement.

Unions form to represent workers’ rights

January 1, 2007

Skilled workers in the UK began organising themselves into trade unions, to represent workers’ rights and campaign for better treatment and working conditions from their employers.

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Boots founded

January 2, 2007

John Boot opens the first Boots store in Nottingham, selling herbal remedies.

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Peppermint Water Case

January 3, 2007

29th April 1998
A dispensing error in the preparation of peppermint water leads to the death of a 3-week old baby. A Boots pharmacist and a pre-registration graduate are charged with manslaughter; both are cleared but plead guilty to an offence under the Medicines Act. The pharmacist had only been qualified for 21 months; Boots had not renewed the pharmacy’s registration to provide pre-reg training and the pre-reg had worked there one day per week for several months, exceeding the maximum 7 days allowed. The company and its superintendent faced no action.link

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PDA Established

January 4, 2007

Following the Peppermint Water case, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association is established to provide legal defence services to pharmacists and pre-regs.

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PDA Union Established

January 5, 2007

The PDA Union officially registers with the Trades Union Certification Officer. The first union executive elections are held.

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PDA Union awarded certificate of independence

January 6, 2007

The Trades Union Certification Officer grants the PDA Union a certificate of independence, demonstrating that the PDA Union is outside the control of employers. This enabled the PDA Union to seek statutory recognition with Boots to collectively bargain with the company on behalf of its pharmacists for better terms and conditions of employment.

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PDA Union requests voluntary recognition to represent Boots pharmacists

January 7, 2007

March 2011
The PDA Union wrote to Boots asking the company to voluntarily recognise it for collective bargaining purposes. We sought to represent Boots pharmacists and pre-registration graduates and to be involved in “collective bargaining” negotiations on working conditions and terms and conditions such as pay, hours and holiday. Boots refused, saying it did not see pharmacists as a special interest group. We wrote again on 19 January 2012 to ask for voluntary recognition. On 10 February 2012, Boots again refused.link

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PDA Union tribunal victory after Boots unlawfully deducts wages

January 8, 2007

A tribunal led by the PDA Union finds that Boots unlawfully deducted its pharmacists’ Sunday premium payments. Pharmacists had been led to believe by both Boots and the BPA that their premium rate reductions were legal, only to find that to be incorrect.link

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PDA Union formally requests recognition with Boots via the CAC

February 14, 2012

14th February 2012
The PDA Union formally requested recognition by statutory procedure (via the CAC) with Boots in February 2012.

On 14 February 2012, Boots suggested talks with the PDA Union and asked it to withdraw its application before the CAC deadline for discussions expired, saying it “was prepared to meet… to discuss the PDA’s request for recognition and to discuss whether any agreement between the parties can be reached”. CAC rules allowed 20 days for discussions to take place unless an application for a further extension was supported by both parties. The PDA Union agreed to this in February 2012, withdrawing the application in good faith to allow talks to be held. The PDA Union said “It is hoped that despite its initial rejection of PDA Union recognition, the company is making a genuine attempt to reach an agreement by wishing to meet.”link

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Boots signs agreement with the BPA

March 1, 2012

1st March 2012
Boots had no intention of recognising the PDA Union for collective bargaining and used the time to prepare an agreement with the BPA, which was signed by both parties on 1 March 2012. The agreement was only for the machinery for consultation (such as the frequency of meetings) and facilities for BPA officials (such as whether the CEO is given a new computer by Boots). It expressly prohibited discussions on terms and conditions of employment.link

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Boots’ disingenuous behaviour

March 2, 2012

2nd March 2012
Boots met with the PDA Union on 2 March 2012 and made no mention of the agreement concluded with the BPA the day before. Instead, Boots told the PDA Union that it had found the meeting useful and that it would now consider its application. The PDA Union, acting in good faith, welcomed Boots’ apparent earnestness.

Boots Director of Pharmacy wrote to us on 22 March 2012 saying it did not accept the proposal for formal recognition and it already had a formal, productive and effective way of working with the BPA. Boots then wrote rejecting our request on 23 March 2012, stating that it had recognised the BPA for certain collective bargaining purposes, instead offering the PDA Union the opportunity of a further meeting “to listen to your ideas, views and concerns”. This was the first time Boots had mentioned the agreement to the PDA Union. We therefore proceeded with an application to the CAC.

The CAC later said Boots “had been disingenuous as [it] had deliberately misled the Union in order to buy time to conclude arrangements with the BPA recorded in the Agreement”.link

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CAC allows PDA Union application for recognition to continue

January 29, 2013

29th January 2013
CAC determines that the PDAU’s application for recognition for collective bargaining rights with Boots should be allowed to proceed on the grounds that the British law, as it stood, was not in line with current European Human Rights case law and therefore they could interpret the law to reflect this. A leading employment lawyer said the case “could mean the end of “sweetheart deals” between employers and certain unions” and was a “very significant development in industrial relations law”.link

Boots disagreed with the judgement and sought a judicial review.

The CAC also held a separate hearing in October 2013, which determined that the PDAU’s application could be accepted on the grounds that it appeared it would have sufficient support to win a ballot to represent Boots pharmacists.link

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BPA refused certificate of independence – and makes history

May 20, 2013

20th May 2013
The Boots Pharmacists’ Association applied for a certificate of independence. On 20th May 2013, it became the first union to have its application refused in more than twelve years and the third such union to have it refused since 1996.

The certification officer said “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 judgement, 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… tending towards domination or control.”link

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Judicial Review

May 21, 2013

Following the CAC’s decision to allow the PDA Union’s application to proceed, Boots sought a judicial review.

In January 2014, the High Court concluded in an interim decision that Boots had no obligation to recognise the PDA Union because its agreement with the BPA could block the application under UK law. He found that in seeking to interpret the statute in a way that was consistent with the Human Rights Act, the CAC had construed or “read down” the statutory scheme further than was permissible in the light of the House of Lords precedent relied upon. The judge did, however, invite the PDA Union to make an application for a declaration of incompatibility of UK law with the European Convention on Human Rights.link

The application was made in July 2014, but following intervention from the government, a further hearing was held to allow it to make representations about the compatibility of UK law with EU law. In September 2014, it was concluded that the only course of action open was for a Boots pharmacist to seek derecognition of the BPA. Boots and government lawyers had argued the same. This was confirmed on 10 February following an appeal.link

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Boots pharmacists apply to derecognise the BPA

July 28, 2017

28th July 2017

A group of Boots pharmacists apply to the Central Arbitration Committee to derecognise the BPA. If successful, the agreement that was established between Boots and the BPA in March 2012 will be removed (see above).

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Over 1,000 Boots pharmacists pledge support for BPA derecognition

September 12, 2017

12th September 2017
Just 40 days after the application, over 1,000 pharmacists pledge their support for derecognising the BPA.link

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CAC allows ballot to derecognise the BPA

November 15, 2017

15th November 2017

The CAC decided that a secret ballot should be held to determine whether the bargaining arrangements between the BPA and Boots Management Services Limited should be ended.link

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CAC hearing to rule on bargaining unit within Boots/BPA agreement

January 19, 2018

19th January 2018
The CAC holds a meeting to determine which members of staff are in the bargaining unit covered by the Boots / BPA agreement – and therefore who will get to vote in the derecognition ballot. Boots and the BPA claim that the BPA was collectively bargaining on behalf of company directors, lawyers and senior managers in its discussions with the company, in relation to the facilities for BPA officials and the machinery for consultation (e.g. when and how often they meet). The PDAU argues that the scope of the agreement is confined to pharmacists who work exclusively or routinely in patient facing roles as part of their jobs.link

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Bargaining unit defined by CAC as Boots loses battle to include senior management and directors

February 16, 2018

16th February 2018
The CAC determined that the bargaining unit covered by the Boots/BPA agreement covered pharmacists at levels 5, 6 and 7 and pre-registration graduates.

Neither Boots nor the Boots Pharmacists Association (BPA) could produce any clear documentary evidence to show which employees are within the scope of their agreement. Boots argued that senior managers and directors who happen to be pharmacists were part of the bargaining unit, but this was rejected by the CAC.link link

The bargaining unit therefore comprises 6,950 pharmacists, meaning that the agreement would be removed by votes from 2,780 pharmacists.link

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Commencement of the ballot on BPA Derecognition

April 24, 2018

25th April 2018
The ballot period on BPA derecognition commences and is announced by the CAC.

Ballot papers to be posted to the home addresses of Boots pharmacists and pre-registration graduates on 10 May 2018.

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BPA derecognition ballot results announced

June 5, 2018

6th June 2018
Boots pharmacists vote to derecognise the BPA

2826 (87%) voted in favour, 436 (13%) voted against on a 41.02% turnout.

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BPA derecognised, PDA Union applies for recognition

June 11, 2018

12th June 2018
The BPA was formally derecognised by the Central Arbitration Committee, and the PDA Union immediately submitted its application for recognition to Boots.

The application was for recognition of the same bargaining unit that had just been derecognised (all pharmacists at levels 5, 6 and 7).

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Boots asks CAC to delay BPA derecognition indefinitely

July 5, 2018

7th June 2018
In contrast to the wishes of its pharmacists expressed in the ballot, Boots asks the CAC to delay derecognition indefinitely so that it could continue to meet with the BPA “until such time as alternative arrangements are put in place”.

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PDA Union applies to CAC for statutory recognition

July 24, 2018

25th July 2018
PDA Union applies to the CAC for statutory recognition after talks with Boots do not end in agreement.

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CAC accepts PDA Union application for statutory recognition

August 17, 2018

18th August 2018
The CAC accepts the PDA Union’s application for statutory recognition with Boots.

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CAC determines new bargaining unit for PDA Union recognition ballot

September 30, 2018

1st October 2018
The CAC determined the bargaining unit to include all store based and relief pharmacists, including advanced practitioners and care services pharmacists, all pre registration pharmacists and all pharmacist store managers at levels 5, 6 or 7. It excluded pharmacists in support office and field roles.

Boots had sought to exclude pre-registration pharmacists, pharmacist store managers, field and support office pharmacists from the bargaining unit. The PDA Union opposed the application, seeking to keep all of these roles within the bargaining unit (all had been in the bargaining unit covered by the agreement Boots had with the BPA).

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Recognition Ballot Begins

February 4, 2019

4th February 2019
5-week ballot of Boots pharmacists and pre-registration pharmacists commences

All store based and relief pharmacists, including advanced practitioners and care services pharmacists, all pre registration pharmacists and all pharmacist store managers at levels 5, 6 or 7 are eligible to vote.

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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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