PDAU and senior Boots managers meet to discuss ongoing dispute

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Talks have been held between members of the Pharmacists’ Defence Association Union (PDAU) and senior managers from Boots as part of an ongoing dispute over the legal status of the Boots Pharmacists’ Association (BPA).

The meeting, which took place on 1 December 2017, is the latest development in a five-year battle by six Boots pharmacists to derecognise the BPA and secure independent representation at work through gaining collective bargaining rights for the PDAU.

Last month, the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC), which resolves workplace disputes, accepted a legal application by the group of pharmacists to dissolve the BPA, triggering a 20-day statutory negotiating period. 

Mark Pitt, assistant general secretary of the PDAU, which is representing the six pharmacists, said three options were on the table. The first, that Boots terminates its agreement with the BPA to allow the PDAU to formally apply for recognition, the second that the six applicants withdraw their application and the third that no agreement is reached.

If no agreement is reached by the 13 December deadline, a final decision will be made by secret ballot.

Pitt said: “Friday’s meeting was constructive but there was little concrete progress as we are still in the negotiating period.”

He confirmed a meeting would also take place at the end of this week with the BPA as part of the ongoing negotiations.

The CAC’s decision in November 2017 hinged on whether the PDAU had the explicit support of 10% of Boots pharmacists, known as the bargaining unit, for its application to de-recognise the BPA, and then whether the panel thought it likely that a majority of the bargaining unit would vote for de-recognition in a secret ballot.

The panel accepted the PDAU’s argument that membership of the PDAU among Boots pharmacists constituted support for de-recognition of the BPA and that area managers and above did not fall within the bargaining unit.

Timeline of events

November 2017:

The CAC publishes its full decision on the BPA de-recognition case .

August 2017:
PDAU urges Boots pharmacists to pledge support for legal action .

July 2017:

Six Boots pharmacists apply to CAC to derecognise BPA .

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

November 2016: PDAU appeals High Court ruling.

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.

July 2014: PDAU 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.

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

January 2013:
CAC determines that PDAU’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.

22 March 2012: Boots director of pharmacy writes to the PDAU 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 PDAU proceeds with its application to the CAC.

1 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 PDAU.

February 2012: On 14 February, PDAU formally requests recognition by statutory procedure (via the Central Arbitration Committee [CAC]) with Boots. PDAU formally withdraws its application at Boots’s request.

10 February 2012: Boots again refuses PDAU’s request.

19 January 2012:
PDAU asks for voluntary recognition again.

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

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, December 2017, Vol 299, No 7908;299(7908):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2017.20204069

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