Boots pharmacists in field and support office roles will not be eligible to vote on whether to have the PDA Union as their representative union, the Central Arbitration Committee has ruled, claiming that this group is "not an easy fit" with store-based pharmacists.

After PDAU and Boots management failed to reach an agreement on the scope of the bargaining unit that will be eligible to vote, the CAC considered written submissions from both parties and conducted a hearing on Friday 28 September, before publishing its determination on Monday 1 October.

In order for the PDAU to be formally recognised, 40 per cent of those eligible to vote (roughly 2,600 out of the total group of around 6,500 pharmacists) must vote in favour and no more than that must vote against. No date has yet been announced for the ballot. 

Disagreement

The PDAU had sought to include in the bargaining group all pharmacists that were eligible to vote in a ballot in which a majority voted to derecognise the Boots Pharmacists’ Association.

This group included all pharmacists at levels 5, 6 and 7 within the organisation – including those working in field or support office roles.

Boots management had argued that only store and relief pharmacists should be included in the bargaining unit. This would have excluded roughly 1,500 pharmacists, including field and support office pharmacists, pre-registration pharmacists and pharmacist store managers.

Determination

The CAC ruled that all pharmacists at levels 5, 6 and 7 within the Boots hierarchy other than those in field or support office roles should be included in the bargaining unit.

The CAC determination said: “On balance, we conclude that the support office and field-based pharmacists are not an easy fit with the store based pharmacists… At this employer there is a clear dividing line between the registered and pre-registration pharmacists who work in stores at whatever level (between 5, 6 and 7) and those who do not. Ignoring that distinction is incompatible with effective management.”

PDA response

PDAU assistant general secretary Mark Pitt said: “While we are pleased that the panel have agreed with us that pharmacist store managers and pre-registration pharmacists, as well as all store and relief pharmacists, should be able to benefit from independent trade union recognition, there are still hundreds of pharmacists in field and support office roles who will be excluded from any ballot because Boots does not want them to be represented by an independent trade union.

“We will never give up working for any of our members and PDA members in the excluded groups should be aware that PDA Union can continue to help them with advice, guidance and representation in individual situations such as grievances or disciplinaries, if they occur.”

The Boots Pharmacists’ Association has been contacted for comment.

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