PDAU say change of law needed on sweetheart union derecognition

The PDA Union have just won a recognition ballot which ended with an overwhelming win for the union, but say they believe the law on the overall process relating to derecognising a sweetheart union needs to be improved.

Wed 13th March 2019 PDA Union

In 2018, Boots pharmacists were the first group of employees in UK history to vote to remove a sweetheart union arrangement.  Others faced with similar options have judged it is too hard to even attempt to reach the legal requirement that 40% of eligible voters must vote yes

That first ballot ended with 87% of those who voted (2,826 pharmacists) voting to end the arrangement that the company had with the Boots pharmacists Association (BPA).  Those who voted yes equated to 41% of those eligible to vote and hence the Boots/BPA agreement was ended.

After the result of the 2018 ballot was announced the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) said:


“…the Panel concludes that the workers who voted for de-recognition of the BPA did so as support for the Union’s application for recognition. No other explanation has been proffered by the Employer, and nor can the Panel think of one. Why else would they have taken the trouble to vote to end the extremely limited bargaining arrangements with BPA, other than to pave the way for a recognition application by the Union?”


Despite the obvious support for the PDAU to be recognised, the law required a further ballot to be held asking the specific question about recognising the PDAU.  This meant the PDAU was required to achieve what others considered almost impossible, TWICE.

The second result of the historic ballot was 3,229 votes (92.4%) in favour of the trade union, with only 266 votes (7.6%) supporting the senior management proposal, which they presented as an alternative.  This also meant that 47.5% of those eligible to vote supported the union, which clearly surpassed the 40% threshold required for the union to succeed.

Paul Day, National Officer for the PDA Union said ”Although we have proven it is possible, it should not be necessary for two votes with such a high threshold to be necessary for workers to secure an independent voice at work.

The current law gives too much opportunity to employers that want to ignore the opinions of their employees and in our opinion is not fairly balanced with the rights of workers to be treated better at work.   

Holding the second ballot process extended the period that pharmacists were denied independent trade union representation at Boots, when the outcome was inevitable.  The result was 3,229 votes (92.4%) in favour of the trade union, with only 226 votes (7.6%) supporting the senior management proposal.  This also meant that 47.5% of those eligible to vote supported the union, which surpassed the 40% threshold required for the union to succeed.  Support for the union had grown since the first ballot.

The law should be changed so that the CAC are able to order recognition for a union when a derecognition ballot removes a sweetheart arrangement. Alternatively, the derecognition ballot question could be expanded to explicitly ask if employees want to derecognise the sweetheart union in order to recognise the independent union.  It would also be necessary under such changes to give the applicants for removing the sweetheart union a legal right to communicate with the bargaining unit.  This is missing from the current legislation.

In either case, this would mean that a single ballot is enough.

First ballot:

Second ballot:


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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