Pay talks between Boots UK and the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) Union have now concluded with a final remuneration package valued at 3.9%.
The PDA Union said it had accepted Boots’ offer and decided not to ballot members on possible industrial action, in part owing to growing uncertainty around the Omicron variant of COVID-19 and the involvement of pharmacists required to deliver booster vaccinations.
Paul Day, director of the PDA Union, told The Pharmaceutical Journal: “Having exhausted the talks, the option for pharmacists was either take industrial action or accept the company’s final offer and commitment, following the [Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service] hosted conciliation.”
The final offer from Boots includes a 2% increase on pay, with an additional lump sum worth a further 0.76% of annual pay, which will be payable partly in January 2022 and partly in March 2022.
There will also be salary increases for those in the early stages of their career and lower end of their pay ranges, with enhanced payments for accepting shifts at short notice increasing the total value of the package of improvements to 3.9%, the PDA said.
However, all items in the package above and beyond the 2% basic increase only apply to those covered by the scope of the PDA Union negotiations — including store-based pharmacists and relief pharmacists, including managers of some stores.
Managers of the biggest Boots UK stores, area managers and pharmacists in other roles are not included.
In a statement published on 20 December 2021, the PDAU highlighted that the turnout in the recent member consultation — to which 22% of PDA Union members at Boots responded — was not sufficiently high for the union leadership to be confident enough that members wanted to consider industrial action.
“Under UK law, we can only legally embark on industrial action, including action short of strike, if at least 50% of eligible members vote, and at least 40% of eligible members vote for action,” the statement said.
In October 2021, the PDA Union warned of possible industrial action when a survey of its Boots members revealed that 83% had rejected a 2% pay offer from the multiple.
After pay talks were referred to the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service, Boots tabled a new offer to its pharmacists earlier in December 2021, totalling 3.25%.
The PDAU statement also acknowledged that industrial action taken now by pharmacists may prove unpopular.
“It was felt that with the growing uncertainty around the Omicron variant and the higher profile of pharmacists in the health sector response, it would be extremely difficult to mount an effective industrial action strategy that does not appear to impact adversely on patients,” it said.
“Public support would be vital in winning any dispute and there is a very real concern industrial action now would not have the support of the public and place members in a very real professional and personal conflict of being forced to either support the action or reassure their patients.”
In a statement made on 20 December 2021, Boots UK said: “We value the contribution our pharmacists make to patients, communities and our business. We fully acknowledge the strength of feeling among many of our pharmacists regarding the purchasing power of their salaries over recent years.
“We therefore commit to ensuring that price inflation is taken into account in the 2022 pay settlement with the PDAU.”
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