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Has Alliance Boots backtracked on pay cuts?

Alliance Boots has recently issued updated guidance to its managers and employees following a growing chorus of complaints, channelled through the PDA Union, about the pay cuts it planned to impose on June 1st 2011.

Fri 29th April 2011 PDA Union

Alliance Boots has recently issued updated guidance to its managers and employees following a growing chorus of complaints, channelled through the PDA Union, about the pay cuts it planned to impose on June 1st.


From its initial position that the cuts were a “done deal” Alliance Boots, has made a dramatic turnaround and appears to indicate that the company will now seek to agree the changes with individuals.  The company is also proposing to buy out the premium payments and compensate PDA members for giving up their contractual rights to the higher premium pay.  However some pharmacists may decide that the money offered will not offset the 25% pay cut they will suffer and will need to study the offer carefully.  The Company has conceded that it has not communicated well with the affected employees and realises that employees “need to be well listened to”


Affected pharmacists have been told that the cuts mean “for a valuable minority, giving up something we value” and that the money they will lose from the pay cuts will go to supplement the wages of counter staff.  Alliance Boots reported profits in excess of £1 billion in 2010 and members feel “robbing Peter to pay Paul” is an unusual way to motivate pharmacists to deliver legendary customer care in such a profitable organisation.


The PDA Union has always maintained that the company should properly consult with its pharmacists and believes it has failed to do this, either directly or through any internal staff association, because the pay cuts came as a complete surprise and the unequivocal nature of the communication indicated there were no options, but to accept the cuts.  In the view of the PDA Union, the revised communication exercise the company now plans to hold still does not constitute a proper consultation process and has been hastily arranged to weaken any legal challenge.


Whilst this volte-face is to be welcomed, the nature of the communication is confusing and must be clarified by the company.


One communication that has been sent to managers for briefing pharmacists states that the company has not formally consulted with staff because it is not intending to terminate anyone’s employment in connection with these changes.  This statement implies that pharmacists who wish to retain their original terms and conditions for premium working will not face dismissal and can continue to be paid their original contractual premium payments. However the same communication goes on to state that those employees who accept the pay cut will be eligible for a pay rise this year, but is silent on whether those who reject the changes will receive one at all.


The company needs to answer in a clear and unambiguous way the following questions:


  • What does the Company mean when it states “for a valuable minority of people, giving up something we value”?
  • How much does the company plan to compensate pharmacists who agree to the lower premium payment rate?
  • If an employee declines to accept the new terms and conditions, can they continue working on their original terms & conditions?
  • Will those employees who decline to accept the changes to their terms and conditions be denied a pay rise as a result?


In support of its members, the PDA Union has been the only powerful voice articulating the strong feelings of pharmacists affected by the pay cuts. We are of the firm belief that had we not done so, the proposed changes would have gone through with at most, token resistance.  A single group grievance has been submitted on behalf of a significant number of Alliance Boots employees and the company is yet to formally respond.  Despite leading and co-ordinating the views of so many Alliance Boots pharmacists, there is no mention of the PDA Union’s involvement in any company communications our members have seen so far.


Instead Alliance Boots describes in company briefings that the Boots Pharmacists Association (BPA) is an organisation it listens to and with whom it is working closely with on this matter.  However pharmacists report that the advice they originally received from BPA was that the company’s actions were legal.  Pharmacists can make their own mind up as to why the company gives prominence and succour to this organisation.  A recent statement issued by the BPA Chief Executive Officer chastises Alliance Boots pharmacists for making negative comments about the pay cuts on an internal pharmacist forum and states this has little effect on senior managers who monitor the forum and his statement goes on to describe the great working relationship BPA has with the company.  An Alliance Boots communication states that one of BPA’s solutions, endorsed by the company, is that pharmacists should make up the wages shortfall caused by the pay cut, by working extra hours possibly over lunch times.


The PDA Union believe that the only effective way for pharmacists to tackle such issues is to encourage the company to enter into meaningful and genuine discussions with employees and their chosen representatives.  These pharmacists must have the back up and expertise of a powerful and well resourced Union at their disposal to ensure their employer treats them fairly and reasonably in accordance with employment law – this is not a job for amateurs.

The PDA union will shortly be issuing further guidance directly to members on the next steps to protect their position.



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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