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PDAU and Boots Update

Deadline of 3rd March 2013 for pledging support

Fri 22nd February 2013 The PDA

Click to download and print out information for your Boots colleagues

The story so far

The decision by the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) to permit the application by the PDAU to progress to the next stage has generated a great deal of favourable comment in the national and legal press.

A selection of articles can be viewed here:

One respected legal source summarised the implications of the decision as follows:

“The immediate consequence of this Judgment is that employers seeking to block the recognition of independent trade unions in the workplace will have to be more sophisticated in their use of “patsy” in-house trade unions as a defensive strategy”

A magazine for HR professionals commented:

A leading employment lawyer has told HR magazine this could mean the end of ‘sweetheart deals’ between employers and certain unions and called it a “very significant” development in industrial relations law.  A ‘sweetheart deal’ describes a deal between an employer and trade union officials that benefit them both at the expense of the employee.

The CAC decision clarified the existing employment legislation to enable it to be compliant with recent developments in EU law and Article 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights.  The legislation is now unambiguous and means that for an existing collective bargaining agreement to block an application for recognition from an independent trade union, it must include pay, hours and holiday.  The agreement that Boots recently signed with the BPA fell short of those requirements.

Boots to apply for a Judicial Review

Boots initially asked the CAC to reconsider its decision and to stop the recognition process.  The CAC refused and Boots have now said it will seek a Judicial Review.  A Judicial Review (JR) is a process where an individual or organisation can challenge the decision of a public body, such as the CAC.  Boots must first apply for permission to do so and this is normally granted.  Boots will then be able to argue its case before a higher court to seek to overturn the decision.  The CAC took many weeks to carefully consider its decision and provided a 40 page detailed judgement with clearly articulated reasons.  We are hopeful that the judgement will stand up to scrutiny.

Why are Boots opposed to collective bargaining with unions?

The American pharmacy giant, Walgreens have purchased 45% of Boots and has the option of taking full control by 2015.  Walgreens appear fundamentally opposed to the involvement of unions in its American workforce.  Its company philosophy is summarised on a Walgreens website, it appears to discourage union membership within its workforce

Walgreens philosophy:

“Walgreens feels very strongly that labor unions do not serve the best interests of our individual employees or the company as a whole”

Walgreens also tells its workforce:

“While we respect each employee’s right to choose or decline union membership, we certainly prefer direct relationships with you to make our working relationship successful rather than dealing through third parties”

The website goes on to give the top 10 reasons why Walgreens asks employees to say ‘NO’ to unions.

The Walgreens website can be found here.

Trade union laws and labour relations are different in the UK and Walgreens will have to operate within UK legislation.  Boots have reassured their pharmacists and stated “We want to remind you all we respect the right of all our colleagues to be members of a trade union of their choice”

However Boots’ preference is to deal with the BPA and work within an agreement that specifically excludes negotiations on matters of real importance to pharmacists, such as pay, hours and working conditions. We believe that BPA’s track record in stopping the company from cutting pay and benefits from pharmacists is poor.


BPA told its members that the cuts to premium pay were lawful, action taken by the PDA Union at the Employment Tribunal proved this to be incorrect and as a consequence many pharmacists had to have their deductions repaid by the company. BPA recently approved a company break policy that we believe is not compliant with the working time regulations and that we would never have approved.

We urge all pharmacists to take an interest in what is happening and make their own mind up about what is in their best interests.  Pharmacists may wish to question why the company is expending a great deal of time, money and effort in protecting its relationship with the BPA.

BPA’s response to the decision

Boots and the BPA are united in their opposition to the PDAU being granted recognition rights.  The C&D reports “Boots and the union Boots Pharmacy Association (BPA) have pledged to fight a ruling that has brought the PDA one step closer to formally representing the health and beauty giant’s employees”

The Chief Executive of the BPA has told the C&D that the BPA will be balloting its members to see if they wanted it to gain full negotiating rights with Boots.  This is a surprising development as the BPA did not ask its members whether they wanted the existing agreement which was signed on 1st March 2012 and which specifically excludes such negotiations taking place.

Shape and protect your future – deadline of 3rd March 2013 to make a difference

If you have not already done so, please pledge your support  for PDAU recognition using one of the links below and encourage all your Boots employed pharmacists and pre reg colleagues to do the same.  You can download further information by clicking here and please share this with Boots colleagues or even print it out and hand to other pharmacists and pre registration graduates who work for Boots.



Time is of the essence as the deadline for pledges is Sunday 3rd March 2013

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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