Disappointing lack of support for pharmacists from the Boots Pharmacists Association

The Boots Pharmacists Association (BPA) were a willing participant in blocking pharmacists from securing an independent voice at work for many years. Even now their executive is refusing to support a campaign for Pharmacists at Boots to secure recognition of a trade union of their choice.

Sun 27th January 2019 PDA Union

The BPA signed a secret deal with senior management in 2012, just as Pharmacists were getting close to securing recognition for the PDA Union.  The deal was specifically designed to create a legal barrier preventing pharmacists from voting for an independent voice at work; a vote which is finally happening this February.  The behaviour of Boots senior management in creating this barrier in conjunction with the BPA was described as “disingenuous” by the courts.

In 2013 the Certification Officer, the government regulator of Trade Unions refused to give BPA a certificate of independence.  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.”  Non-independent unions like the BPA are often described as “sweetheart” unions and remarkably the Chief Executive of the BPA signed away negotiation rights over pay, hours and holidays for all Boots pharmacists without ever asking them. 

More recently we are aware that responses to a BPA survey gave a clear message to the executive that their own members overwhelmingly wanted a union to be able negotiate their basic terms and conditions, something their sweetheart deal with the company and lack of independence prevented them from doing, but which the PDA Union can do.  In effect the BPA are powerless and incapable of delivering what their members have demanded. 

Nevertheless, despite having the opportunity to terminate the blocking agreement, the BPA continued with the deal they had with senior management and forced a derecognition ballot to be necessary,  This was despite last minute talks with the BPA executive in an effort by the PDA Union to avoid the difficulties a defeat would inflict on BPA. Around twice as many pharmacists employed at Boots had already joined PDAU than there were members of BPA at that time, despite the management’s significant support for the sweetheart arrangement.

An overwhelming 87% of pharmacists voting in the June 2018 derecognition ballot confirmed they wanted the sweetheart agreement terminated. Only 436 people voted to maintain the agreement, significantly less than the BPA’s own declared membership numbers, meaning not even half of their own members voted for them to continue.

Mark Pitt, Assistant General Secretary of PDA Union said: “Over many years we have tried to work positively with the BPA in the interests of all pharmacists. We held back for a long time whilst exploring alternatives to derecognising the BPA but ultimately we will always do what is best for Pharmacists. The Court of Appeal told us the only mechanism that pharmacists could use to secure independent union recognition was to derecognise the BPA, a position that Boots legal team agreed with in court, and so that is what happened.”

Since the derecognition ballot, the role of BPA has become unclear and although they continue to have members, they are now even less able to represent them at work.

PDA Union representatives asked the BPA’s Executive Team if they would support the vote for union recognition for pharmacists. The improvements that will be negotiated if the ballot is a success will benefit all pharmacists whether they are members of the PDA Union, the BPA or neither.  However, the BPA told us they have chosen to “remain neutral” and not express an opinion on the ballot to their membership, even though independent union recognition is the only way to deliver the mandate they have been given from their members. 

Mark Pitt concluded: “I am astonished that despite the opportunity to do the right thing following the clear message delivered by the overwhelming vote of Boots pharmacists in June and to help secure an independent voice at work for pharmacists, the BPA Executive have so far refused to express an opinion. 

We believe, that in this crucial process, this is not in the interests of pharmacists. We call on BPA members to unite with all pharmacists and vote “yes” for recognition so that we can deliver for all Boots pharmacists.”

Boots Pharmacists can vote to secure the ability for PDA Union to negotiate on their behalf over pay, hours and other working conditions in a ballot starting 4 February.  The ballot period is scheduled to run for five weeks.   Pharmacists and pre-registration pharmacists at grade 5, 6 & 7 in stores will be entitled to vote.

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.