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‘Overwhelming’ support for industrial action leads to ballot for NI pharmacists

Pharmacy News

‘Overwhelming’ support for industrial action leads to ballot for NI pharmacists

Recent surveys of hospital pharmacists returned “extremely high majorities” in favour of industrial action in three UK home nations – but because the turnout did not meet the required threshold in England and Wales, no further action will be taken there.

However, pharmacists in Northern Ireland are to be formally balloted on industrial action in accordance with the requirements of the 2016 Trade Union Act.

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association has shared with Pharmacy Network News the findings of its survey of PDA Union members employed on Agenda for Change contracts in the NHS, which received responses from over 2,000 pharmacists.

While not a formal ballot, the PDA said it would use the survey to “inform a decision on whether to move to a ballot in any or all of the three countries in accordance with the expressed collective view of pharmacists”. 

“The overwhelming view of those responding was clear,” said the PDA.

In Northern Ireland, 97 per cent supported industrial action short of a strike and 94 per cent for strike action on a turnout of 90 per cent – easily meeting the requirements that 50 per cent of members must take part in the survey, and that at least 40 per cent of respondents must vote yes to industrial action.

As a result, the PDA Union National Executive Committee “has authorised an Industrial Action ballot to be run among members in this country, in accordance with the requirements of the 2016 Trade Union Act,” the organisation told PNN.

Members in Northern Ireland will receive communications setting out the timetable for a ballot; this must be a postal ballot and cannot involve online or electronic voting. 

The PDA added: “In England, 79 per cent voted for industrial action short of a strike, and 84 per cent for strike action in England.

“In Wales, it was 88 per cent in favour of action short of strike and 70 per cent in favour of strike action.”

However, turnout in England and Wales amounted to 32 per cent of the PDA’s 7,000-plus NHS-employed members in those countries – short of the 50 per cent participation rate required to proceed to a formal ballot. 

“Although we believe that these restrictions are unfair, bureaucratic, and designed to make exercising the right to take industrial action difficult, it is not an option for us to ignore the legislation,” said the PDA. 

“In addition to this ballot in Northern Ireland, we recognise that many members, including those who do not want to take strike action, are unhappy with NHS pay across the UK.”

“Members can see from these figures that, although extremely high majorities of those voting were in favour of rejecting the pay award and for taking industrial action, neither the turnout nor voting yes criteria has been met in England or Wales. A ballot will therefore not be held among members employed in the NHS in England or among members employed in the NHS in Wales, at this time.

“Politicians, senior NHS decision makers, and NHS employers in England and Wales should, however, have no doubt that it is a consequence solely of the restrictive legislation governing industrial action in the UK, which we feel is unfair but which we have no option but to comply with that is preventing ballots in those countries. Those decision-makers should continue to recognise that they need to do all they can to resolve the dispute satisfactorily.”

“We also fully recognise that members in England and Wales who did participate in the survey and supported industrial action may feel disappointed at the current decision to not ballot them. If there are changes to the NHS pay award or if this dispute continues, further consultations with members will take place in due course and this will again include questions on whether members would support industrial action in a ballot.

 “To ensure the views of all NHS members are reflected in our work, regardless of where members work in the UK and whether they support industrial action or not, we are already thinking about the next pay settlement.”

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