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Pay negotiations for Boots pharmacists referred to ACAS after reaching a standstill

Talks between Boots and the Pharmacists’ Defence Association are deadlocked, with the union countering a 0% pay offer with a request for a one-off £1,000 payment to recognise commitment shown during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Boots signage

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Boots pharmacists were awarded a 1.8% pay increase in November 2019

Pay negotiations between Boots and the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) have been referred to independent mediators after reaching a standstill.

In a statement, the PDA said it had countered the multiple’s “intention to offer a 0% increase [in pay] to pharmacists” this year with a request for a one-off payment of £1,000.

This was not agreed by Boots and, therefore, the PDA decided to refer the negotiations to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) — independent and publicly funded mediators in industrial disputes.

The dispute comes after the PDA, which has represented Boots pharmacists since July 2019, negotiated a 1.8% pay increase for pharmacists at the multiple in November 2019.

However, the statement, published on 7 October 2020, said that the multiple implemented a “companywide pay freeze” with no pay increases for staff, including pharmacists, in November 2020, owing to “redundancies and uncertain economic data”.

In July 2020, the multiple announced plans to cut 4,000 jobs from its workforce — with pharmacists and pharmacy advisers unaffected — as a result of the impact of COVID-19.

In light of this, the PDA said it proposed “a one-off £1,000 lump sum payable on 1 November [2020] to reflect the commitment and professionalism shown by members during the COVID-19 crisis”.

“In tabling this counterproposal, the PDA Union team was mindful of payments made by Boots competitors to their pharmacists,” the statement added.

Well Pharmacy announced in May 2020 that it would be giving its employees a “COVID-19 recognition payment” of £150 “for their extraordinary hard work, resilience and commitment during the time of crisis”.

A spokesperson for Boots confirmed to The Pharmaceutical Journal that the company had announced that it would not be increasing pay for its employees included in the November 2020 pay review, “which largely affects support office, warehouse leadership and store management roles”.

”Although pharmacists and colleagues in these roles all form part of the same team, we can confirm that pharmacist pay is subject to ongoing pay negotiations with the PDA Union,” they added.

In a joint statement, Anne Higgins, director of stores at Boots, and Paul Moloney, national officer at the PDA Union, said “the next step in the process will be to engage ACAS for their assistance” in negotiating a deal.

“Both parties acknowledge the challenge of concluding negotiations in the exceptional circumstances of the pandemic and current economic conditions, while also recognising the hard work and commitment of pharmacists during what has been an unusual and difficult time for colleagues,” the statement said.

“However, so far, it has not been possible to reach an overall agreement due to differences regarding the pay claim itself,” it continued, adding that negotiations through ACAS are expected to “take a few weeks”.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20208430

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