Boots pharmacists' huge vote for union recognition

Boots pharmacists have voted for recognition of the PDA Union for future collective bargaining on pay and conditions with the company in a historic ballot, the results of which were announced late last night, following confirmation of the outcome by the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC).

The result of the ballot saw 3,229 votes case in favour of recognition of the trade union, an overwhelming 92.4 per cent of the votes cast, with only 226 votes supporting the alternative management proposition of a joint negotiating committee. The ballot also passed the 40 per cent threshold required in a recognition ballot; 47.5 per cent of those eligible to vote in the ballot did so. 

In a statement issued with the result, the Union says it believes the strength of feeling from pharmacists about the need to improve their employment made the outcome of the ballot, the culmination of an eight year fight, inevitable. Mark Pitt, assistant general secretary, said: “Every single day over the last 8 years the company have had the ability to voluntarily recognise the PDAU, but every single day they decided to keep fighting their own employees. Boots will now be forced to recognise their employees’ choice of union.

"Despite the clear message from pharmacists in the 2018 ballot, where 87 per cent voted to allow PDAU recognition, the company continued to use everything it could to stop pharmacists securing an independent voice at work until now."

For Boots UK, pharmacy and retail operations director Andrew Caplan said, “I, and my fellow members of the Boots pharmacy leadership team are all Boots pharmacists. We care passionately about doing the right thing for pharmacy, to create an exciting, innovative and sustainable future for us all and we will continue with that vision. Clearly, this is not the result that we had hoped for, however, we have listened to the voice of our pharmacists and offer our congratulations to the PDAU. We will now enter into a negotiation with the PDAU over the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, how it will work and what it will cover and we’ll continue to keep our pharmacists updated on this process over the coming weeks."

That recognition agreement will be reached under the guidance of the CAC. John Murphy, general secretary of the PDA Union has written to the new Boots UK president and managing director Sebastian James, who is also senior vice-president, Walgreens Boots Alliance, inviting him to create "a new, positive chapter in employee relations" at the company. 

In a reference to the eight year fight, Mr Murphy says: "We now have an opportunity to put all that in the past and create a working environment in which pharmacists feel appropriately valued and respected, patients can consistently receive excellent care and the company can prosper.  

"We know that there are significant challenges for community pharmacy and any response to these should be developed in conjunction with pharmacists, not done to them.  We want to work with the company to ensure it continues to be a long-term success for the benefit of all."

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