Union warns of potential industrial action as Boots pharmacists reject pay rise offer

The Pharmacists' Defence Association said the likelihood of industrial action had increased after a survey of its Boots members found that 83% of respondents had rejected the multiple's 2% pay increase offer.

Pharmacists working at Boots have “overwhelmingly” rejected the multiple’s offer of a 2% increase in pay, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) Union has said.

In a statement issued on 22 October 2021, the PDA Union said that 83% of its members at Boots who responded to a survey had called on the union to refer the pay negotiations to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).

The statement said the PDA will invite ACAS “to work with both parties to explore ways that Boots could revise their offer and make an across-the-board increase higher than the current rate of inflation of 3.1%”.

The PDA Union, which has represented the 6,000 pharmacists employed by Boots since July 2019, previously referred pay negotiations to ACAS in October 2020, after talks with the multiple reached a standstill.

Paul Day, director of the PDA Union, said in the statement that pharmacists’ pay at Boots “has reduced in real terms for several years”.

“Last year our members accepted a pay freeze in recognition of the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

“This year, however, it is time for Boots to recognise the significant contribution our members make to keeping the business successful while also delivering essential healthcare to the public.”

Day said the PDA Union aims to secure an “above inflation increase” but added that the rejection of Boots’ offer “does increase the likelihood … [of] some form of industrial action in the coming months”.

On 14 October 2021, Walgreens Boots Alliance — the parent company of Boots UK — announced that pharmacy sales at Boots increased 11.4% in June, July and August 2021, compared with the same three months in 2020, “reflecting stronger demand for pharmacy services, notably COVID-19 tests”.

Day told The Pharmaceutical Journal on 25 October 2021 that the union had surveyed its Boots members and received “more than a thousand responses … [showing] an overwhelming rejection of what the company are currently offering”.

He said that some “83% of those respondents asked us to reject the offer and refer the talks to ACAS”.

“Significant numbers also asked about the options for industrial action should ACAS-facilitated talks not produce a final agreement,” he added.

The response from Boots pharmacists comes after hospital pharmacists have been encouraged to join industrial action over the government’s offer of a 3% pay rise for NHS staff.

Commenting on the PDA Union survey, a Boots spokesperson said:“We have offered a substantial pay and development package that directly addresses the key areas raised by the PDA Union and, in fact, our total proposed pay increase, weighted towards pharmacists at the start of their career, exceeds the PDAU’s [PDA Union’s] aggregate request.

“This is in addition to the year-end bonus payment that all pharmacists, as Boots team members, will be granted in November 2021. 

“Over the course of the last five years, we have awarded overall pay rises to our pharmacists which have exceeded the consumer price index as well as paying bonuses to them in the majority of those years.”

“For these reasons, we are disappointed by the PDAU’s decision to decline our proposal.

They added that the salary increase was originally scheduled for November 2021, in line with the rest of the business, “but has inevitably been delayed due to the protracted nature of these negotiations”.

READ MORE: Pharmacy’s ethnicity pay gap widens

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, October 2021, Vol 307, No 7954;307(7954)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2021.1.112016

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