The Pharmacists’ Defence Association Union (PDAU) has had its application to be recognised by Boots formally accepted by the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC), moving the union a step closer to representing pharmacists at the healthcare giant on issues such as pay, hours and working conditions.

The latest development comes after CAC ruled to terminate the bargaining powers of the Boots Pharmacists’ Association (BPA) following a historic vote which saw Boots pharmacists elect to support the termination of their agreement with the BPA by 2,826 votes to 436.

Confirmation is now needed to decide which pharmacists are within scope of the application and if that is not reached, the CAC could have the final decision.

“The PDA Union believes all those pharmacists who voted to end the arrangement with the BPA should continue to have a voice,” the PDAU said.

“Since 2012 the company had an arrangement with the BPA which covered ‘all registered and pre-registration pharmacists at levels 5, 6 and 7 who are employed by Boots Management Services Ltd’ and the union believe all those individuals should continue to be included and benefit from PDA Union recognition in due course.

“However, senior managers (at Boots) insist on excluding some of these pharmacists, something which the PDA Union believes is wrong.”

PDAU assistant general secretary Mark Pitt said: “Eighty-seven percent of those who voted in the recent ballot supported removing the BPA arrangement which had blocked pharmacists from securing negotiation rights over their pay and working conditions.

“Despite saying the company would respect the outcome of that ballot, the senior negotiating team at Boots, led by Andrew Caplan, are continuing to resist their employees’ demands for an independent voice at work.

“The PDA Union has demonstrated over the last seven years that we do not give up on our members and are committed to doing what is best for pharmacists by proceeding with this process.”

The PDAU claimed Boots “continue to insist that a further ballot is needed” and that the 7,000 or so pharmacists and pre-registration pharmacists who voted in June in favour of the PDA “could need to vote a second time.”

Andrew Caplan, pharmacy and retail operations director at Boots UK, told Pharmacy Business: “Boots offer to the PDAU for constructive talks to try and agree an appropriate bargaining unit and voluntary agreement remains open, as it has been since the BPA derecognition ballot.

“We hope that these talks will resume so that we can provide our colleagues with full details of the type of arrangement and agreement being proposed by the union, to enable them to make an informed decision in a ballot.

“Rather than continue our discussions about the basis of a voluntary agreement, the PDAU instigated formal proceedings to which we were obliged to respond. (The) decision of the CAC is the conclusion of the first stage in that process.

“It’s important to us that if a recognition agreement is put in place, all pharmacists understand exactly what that would mean and that they are given the opportunity to have their say.”