Pharmacists employed by Boots UK have rejected the company’s offer of a two per cent pay rise, according to the union representing them.

The Pharmacists Defence Association (PDA) said pharmacists’ pay at Boots has reduced in real terms although shareholders of the parent company Walgreens Boots Alliance have continued to receive record levels of dividends.

The PDA Union, which represents Boots UK’s 6,000 store-based pharmacists, says pharmacists in Boots have seen the purchasing power of their income diminish over the last eight years, due to a series of sub-inflation increases, concluding in a pay freeze last year.

The union submitted a detailed evidence-based claim for improvements to terms and conditions in June 2021 with the key objective of seeing an increase in pay above inflation.

However, Boots responded with an offer to increase pay rates by two per cent, plus a one-off lump sum worth 0.38 per cent and other measures to reward those in the initial stages of their career – valuing the package at 3.25 per cent.

Paul Day, PDA Union Director commented, “It is time for Boots to recognise the significant contribution our members make to keeping the business successful while also delivering essential healthcare to the public. The union’s objective has been to secure a fair, above inflation increase for everyone covered by these talks, but unfortunately the company’s current offer fails to do that.”

PDA said the dispute will now move to the final stage of the procedure agreed between the PDA Union and Boots. Independent public body, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service or ACAS, will be invited to work with both parties to explore ways that Boots could revise their offer and make an across-the-board increase higher than the current rate of inflation of 3.1.

Paul Day added: “We have listened to what the company has said during negotiations and revised our original claim in response. We remain optimistic that an agreement can be reached that will meet pharmacists’ expectations and the objectives set out by Boots. We believe the company has the resources to make a revised offer and avoid this dispute continuing.

“However, the rejection of the current offer by our members does increase the likelihood that Boots’ pharmacists could consider taking some form of industrial action in the coming months.

“The public relies upon a range of pharmacy services at Boots, such as dispensing of prescriptions and flu vaccinations. We call on the company to do everything they can to resolve this dispute as a matter of extreme urgency.”

Pay negotiations last year between Boots and the PDAU representatives were referred to ACAS after reaching a stalemate.

Boots’ response

A spokesperson at Boots got back to Pharmacy Business on October 23.

They said:“Boots pharmacists play a vital role supporting patients and communities across the UK. We are committed to reaching an agreement with the PDAU on their pay and benefits.

“We have offered a substantial pay and development package that directly addresses the key areas raised by the PDAU and, in fact, our total proposed pay increase, weighted towards pharmacists at the start of their career, exceeds the PDAU’s aggregate request. This is in addition to the year-end bonus payment that all pharmacists, as Boots team members, will be granted in November 2021.

“Over the course of the last five years, we have awarded overall pay rises to our pharmacists which have exceeded the consumer price index as well as paying bonuses to them in the majority of those years.

“For these reasons, we are disappointed by the PDAU’s decision to decline our proposal. We have been extremely willing negotiating partners and have proactively and positively engaged with the PDAU and our pharmacists and will continue to do so.

“The longer this process continues, the longer our pharmacists have to wait for a pay rise. A salary increase was originally scheduled for November 2021, in line with the rest of the business, but has inevitably been delayed due to the protracted nature of these negotiations.”

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