Boots and PDA Union sign their first voluntary recognition agreement

After eight years of trying to gain representation of Boots’s pharmacists, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association Union has signed its first agreement with the company.

Boots pharmacy

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) Union has signed its first voluntary recognition agreement with Boots. 

Representing PDA Union members who are store-based Boots pharmacists and pre-registration pharmacists, the PDA Union will now have collective bargaining rights for negotiation on pay, hours and holiday, as well as consultative meetings on a range of other topics.

The formal agreement means that the PDA Union, which will have one regional representative per region, will negotiate the annual pay for these roles within Boots, starting with the forthcoming annual pay review for the financial year 2019/2020.

A joint negotiating board made up of a smaller subset of PDA Union representatives will also exist for the purpose of negotiations relating to pay, hours and holidays.

The agreement includes a list of policy items, including bonus payments and human resource policies, which Boots will inform the PDA Union about if there are any changes.

“This is the start of a new, more positive relationship between Boots UK and the PDA Union,” said Anne Higgins, director of stores, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and co-chair of the agreement meetings.

“We look forward to working with them with a new spirit of partnership in the years ahead, working together for the long-term sustainable success of our pharmacists and Boots UK.”

Mark Pitt, assistant general secretary at the PDA Union, added: “Our objective is to work with Boots UK to create a positive employee relations environment, where the voice of pharmacists is heard, and our members are able to contribute to the business as respected health professionals.”

It has now been eight years since the PDA Union originally wrote to Boots asking the company to voluntarily recognise it for collective bargaining purposes. Previously, pharmacists at the UK’s largest chain of pharmacies were represented by the Boots Pharmacists’ Association.

Timeline of events

March 2011: The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) Union writes to Boots asking the company to voluntarily recognise it for collective bargaining purposes. Boots refuses the request.

January 2012:
The PDA Union asks for voluntary recognition again.

February 2012: Boots again refuses the PDA Union’s request. The PDA Union formally requests recognition by statutory procedure (via the Central Arbitration Committee [CAC]) with Boots. The PDA Union formally withdraws its application at Boots’s request.

March 2012: Boots prepares an agreement with the Boots Pharmacists’ Association (BPA), signed by both parties on 1 March 2012, which prohibits discussions on terms and conditions of employment by the PDA Union. Boots’s director of pharmacy writes to the PDA Union saying it does not accept the proposal for formal recognition as it already has a formal, productive and effective way of working with the BPA. The PDA Union proceeds with its application to the CAC.

January 2013: The CAC determines that PDA Union’s application for recognition for collective bargaining rights with Boots should be allowed to proceed. Boots disagrees with the judgment and seeks a judicial review.

January 2014: The High Court concludes in an interim decision that Boots has no obligation to recognise the PDA Union because its agreement with the BPA could block the application under UK law.

July 2014: The PDA Union makes an application for a declaration of incompatibility of UK law with the European Convention on Human Rights on the back of the High Court’s ruling. A further hearing is held after government intervention.

September 2014: The High Court rules that the UK and European laws are compatible and the only remaining course of action is for a Boots pharmacist to seek derecognition of the BPA.

November 2016: The PDA Union appeals the High Court’s ruling.

February 2017: The Court of Appeal upholds the High Court’s decision.

July 2017:
Six Boots pharmacists file an application to the CAC, asking it to derecognise BPA.

August 2017:
The PDA Union urges Boots pharmacists to pledge support for legal action.

November 2017:

The CAC publishes its full decision on the BPA derecognition case.

December 2017:

The deadline for Boots’s secret ballot passes with no agreement.

June 2018:

Boots pharmacists vote to end deal with BPA. The PDA Union formally asks Boots to recognise it as the negotiating trade union for its pharmacist workforce. A week later, the CAC ends the Boots–BPA deal.

August 2018:
The PDA Union’s application to represent Boots pharmacists is accepted by CAC.

February 2019:

Boots proposes new committee as alternative to PDA Union.

March 2019: The PDA Union announces that more than 90% of eligible Boots pharmacists voted for it to represent them.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, July 2019, Vol 303, No 7927;303(7927):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2019.20206804

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