“Groundhog Day” proposal just proves Boots doesn’t listen

Less than a year ago, more than 2,800 pharmacists at Boots sent a clear message though the ballot box to the company’s senior management that they rejected structures that were not actually free of company control or influence, but the senior management are behaving as if that vote never happened.

Mon 4th February 2019 PDA Union

Ever since the PDA Union first sought union recognition at Boots in 2011, the company has used a series of arrangements to try to give the impression of listening to its pharmacists, using structures that were not actually free of company control or influence.  Less than a year ago, more than 2,800 pharmacists at Boots sent a clear message though the ballot box to the company’s senior management that they rejected such structures, but the senior management are behaving as if that vote never happened.  

Following a meeting of the management appointed and recently relaunched Pharmacist Partnership Panel (PPP), held on the last working day before the recognition ballot commences, the company has written to all pharmacists proposing yet another variation on what has previously been rejected by pharmacists.  

Mark Pitt, Assistant General Secretary of the PDA Union said “Following the company’s statement we immediately heard from pharmacists who felt insulted at the company’s total disregard for their previous vote and pointing out serious flaws in the management’s proposals. While it’s consistent with how the company have behaved for years, pharmacists had hoped that senior management were finally moving forwards. It’s a disappointment that they are still stuck in their old behaviours, but pharmacists tell us they won’t be fooled by yet another management device to stop them having an independent voice at work. 

It feels like ground-hog day as the company repeat their earlier failed attempts to prevent pharmacists securing a genuinely independent voice at work.” 

[For those not familiar with the 1993 film, it stars Bill Murray as a TV weatherman reporting on the annual Groundhog day festival, who is caught in a time loop, repeatedly reliving the same day. Remarkably Boots senior management even chose to write to pharmacists about this announcement on 2 February, which is the actual Groundhog day featured in the film]

Some instant concerns about the company proposal raised by pharmacists 

  • The company proposal appropriates a term used when management and genuine trade unions agree to work together through a “Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC)” and suggests they are going to create their own in-house JNC, but this is misleading because an organisation can’t be “joint” with itself, this phrase only applies when two separate legal entities are involved.
  • Pharmacists know the importance of professionals being regulated and the PDA Union is regulated by the Trade Union Certification Officer, in fact even the Boots Pharmacist Association (BPA) are regulated by the Certification Officer, but the management seem to be proposing an entirely unregulated arrangement giving pharmacists nowhere to go if they are unhappy.  
  • The PDA Union has its own funds, employ our own lawyers and where necessary can take legal action against the company, such as when Boots unlawfully cut premium pay for pharmacists in 2012
  • The PDA Union will have legal rights to appoint safety officers to act upon health & safety concerns and plans to use those rights to tackle stress, support those with poor mental health and remove risks to physical safety. Similarly, there are legal rights for recognised independent trade unions to be consulted on major business changes. These rights do not exist for an in-house committee.  
  • Individual PDA Union representatives also have the legal protections afforded to trade union officials. No such rights exist for members of an in-house committee and a well-meaning pharmacist could find themselves exposed if they tried to stand up against the might of the company under such an arrangement
  • There are legally defined and well-established dispute resolution processes when independent unions are recognised.

This proposal is a further shining example of what the PDA Union have already described as a charm offensive and fits the company’s usual tactics over many years of promising improvements to block independent representation.  However, pharmacists are now wise to such constant promises and know that they don’t deliver the improvements pharmacists need to see. 

Mark Pitt continued: “Ironically the proposal shows that because of our application for recognition the management have finally admitted that they are prepared to commit significant resources to engage with the voice of pharmacists and could commit to be more flexible and quick acting if they wanted.  Pharmacists will expect them to commit the same level of resources into working with the PDA Union after this ballot.

We have constantly questioned why senior management spend so much time and effort on fighting against their own employees and once this ballot concludes we hope they will finally redirect that effort into working with us to improve working conditions for pharmacists.


Notes:  Ballot papers will be distributed to eligible pharmacists and pre-registration pharmacists at Boots on Monday 18 February 2019 by mail to their home address .  

If you consider that you are eligible to vote and have not received a ballot paper by 22 February 2019, please contact the CAC Case Manager, Linda Lehan, by email at llehan@cac.gov.uk giving your full name and address.  

If you have recently changed your address and you have not informed your employer you should do so as soon as possible to ensure you receive your ballot paper on time. 



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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