Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) issue decision on application to derecognise the BPA at Boots

The public body that has statutory powers to resolve workplace disputes in Britain has published their full decision on an application that a secret ballot should be held to determine whether the bargaining arrangements between the BPA and Boots Management Services Limited should be ended.

Mon 27th November 2017 PDA Union

The agreement which BPA signed with Boots blocks an independent trade union, such as PDA Union, from asking the CAC for a ballot for recognition and denies pharmacists an independent voice at work.

The public body that has statutory powers to resolve workplace disputes in Britain has published their full decision on an application that a secret ballot should be held to determine whether the bargaining arrangements between the BPA and Boots Management Services Limited should be ended.

The CAC have decided that the application proceed and pharmacists at Boots can now expect to participate in a ballot to end the recognition agreement between Boots and the BPA. This is the first case under the current legislation (which has now been in force for 17 years) for the ending of bargaining arrangements between a non-independent union and an employer and so is making legal history.

Under the legal process individuals who were unhappy with an arrangement made by their employer with a non-independent trade union can ask the CAC to order a ballot of employees to vote on ending the agreement between the employer and non-independent union.  In this case six pharmacists employed at Boots submitted a joint application to end the agreement between Boots and the Boots Pharmacists Association (BPA). As part of the supporting evidence over 1,000 Boots pharmacists supported the application and also said they wanted the PDA Union to be recognised at Boots to be their union.

The CAC panel noted that “The BPA is not an independent trade union, but seeks to be a close ally of the Employer in the manner of a traditional staff association. By definition a union that is not independent, is dependent upon the employer” and that Boots isoutwardly and overtly supportive of the BPA and encourages pharmacists to join – it acts as a recruiting sergeant.”

The panel went on to note that In contrast, the Employer has been vocal in its opposition to the PDAU in the UK, and the US parent company towards independent unions generally”.  Despite this hostility the facts showed PDA Union’s “consistently high, and rising levels of membership” and the panel recognised that “as evidence of support for derecognition of the BPA” given that “The PDAU does not have access to Boots pharmacist employees in the same way that the BPA does.

While publicly claiming they respect pharmacists choice of representatives Boots made a number of claims that were rejected by the CAC panel including that their agreement with the BPA included every Boots employee who was a qualified pharmacist regardless of their actual job, including Area Managers and above and even including the Superintendent Pharmacist.  The panel said “It is immaterial that pharmacists who climb the management ladder are able to retain membership of the BPA”.

The panel noted the reduction in membership levels at BPA, saying in their decision that “those who have voted with their feet and cancelled their [BPA] subscriptions – of whom we know there are a growing number, are likely to favour an end to the current bargaining arrangements by their active steps to cease being members of the BPA.

Ultimately the panel of experts decided that “the Panel’s decision is that the application is admissible”. This means that a ballot will be requested soon and pharmacists at Boots will be able to vote to derecognise the BPA.  The Panel were “satisfied that a majority of the workers in the bargaining unit, would be likely to favour an ending to the current collective bargaining arrangements.”. 

While the panel agree that it is likely pharmacists will vote in favour to end the Boots/BPA agreement and it can be assumed then vote in favour of PDA Union recognition, it is important to note that there is also a minimum turnout required in the ballot process.  If insufficient pharmacists vote then the current situation would continue even if the vast majority of those who vote, do vote for change.

SO EVERY PHARMACIST AT BOOTS SHOULD ENSURE THEY VOTE ONCE THE BALLOT IS OPEN.

Notes:

The full decision is available here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/662176/Acceptance_Decision.pdf

 

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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