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Labour unions

PDA urges Boots pharmacists to pledge support for legal action

The application was submitted earlier this month to the Central Arbitration Committee by six Boots pharmacists to officially derecognise the BPA. 

Mark Pitt, assistant general secretary of the Pharmacists’ Defence Association Union

Source: Pharmacists’ Defence Association

Mark Pitt of the Pharmacists’ Defence Association Union says the company is trying to deny its pharmacists a true voice

Boots pharmacists are being urged to officially pledge their support for a legal application to “derecognise” the Boots Pharmacists Association (BPA) after it was claimed that there is insufficient support for the action.

Six Boots pharmacists submitted an application to the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) earlier this month to officially derecognise the BPA, which is the non-independent trade union currently representing pharmacists working for the high street chain.

But Mark Pitt, assistant general secretary of the Pharmacists’ Defence Association Union (PDAU), which is supporting the action, has accused Boots of actively trying to prevent the democratic process from going ahead.

It is the latest development in a five-year-battle to secure independent representation for Boots pharmacists.

The CAC has said a final decision will be made by secret ballot, but in order for that to go ahead it needs evidence that at least 10% of the 7,000 pharmacists who work for Boots support the action.

Pitt said: “We have now seen the company’s initial communication to staff and the formal response to the legal application. From our point of view, the company and the BPA are trying its absolute best to stop the democratic process from going ahead by claiming there is insufficient support among Boots pharmacists. It is trying to deny its pharmacists a true voice.”

In a letter to colleagues, sent on 17 August and seen by The Pharmaceutical Journal, retail pharmacy operations director at Boots, Kevin Birch, and pharmacy director, Richard Bradley, said: “Working with the BPA over 40 years has made a big difference to our pharmacists and our business as a whole and the formal relationship we have is uniquely placed to help us into the future. Their intimate knowledge of our business and processes enables them to be challenging, informative and constructive. We therefore do not support de-recognition of the BPA.”

A statement issued by the BPA on 16 August said: ”The BPA was invited last week by the Central Arbitration Committee to repond to the application from the PDAU on behalf of six Boots pharmacists for de-recognition of the BPA.

“Our response was focused on the evidence presented by the PDAU to indicate that the majority of Boots pharmacists would support de-recognition of the BPA. In the opinion of the BPA the evidence presented was not sufficient as it is largely based on historic pledges of support for recognition of the PDAU and not de-recognition of the BPA.”

The PDAU first made an application to be formally given collective bargaining rights by Boots in 2012 after the company had twice refused requests for voluntary recognition the previous year.

In January 2013, the CAC decided that the PDAU’s application should be allowed to proceed. In May 2013, the BPA became the first union to have an application for a certificate of independence refused.

In January 2014, Boots sought judicial review. The High Court, in an interim decision, ruled that Boots had no obligation to recognise the PDAU because its agreement with the BPA could block the application under UK law.

In September 2014, it was concluded that the only course of action open to the PDAU was for a Boots pharmacist to seek derecognition of the BPA. This was confirmed by the Court of Appeal on 10 February 2015.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20203433

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