The Pharmacists’ Defence Association Union (PDAU) has said at least 2,780 ballot votes in favour of terminating the agreement between Boots Pharmacists Association (BPA) and pharmacists at the healthcare giant is needed if it is to have any chance of representing the rights of those workers.

The confidential postal ballot which will be independently held on behalf of the government’s central arbitration committee is set to end seven years of struggle between the PDAU and Boots over who should represent its pharmacists on issues such as pay, hours, holidays and other working conditions.

The PDAU has been eager to see the agreement end so it can represent Boots pharmacists and those hopes were raised by a court’s decision last month not to allow Boots’ senior managerial pharmacists and pharmacist directors to vote in the ballot.

The PDAU however is acutely aware that the BPA agreement will remain if at least 40% of the vote in favour of scrapping it is not achieved.

“The law means that a clear majority vote could still allow the status quo to continue if less than the 40% minimum number vote for change. For example, if 2,500 employees were to vote to end the Boots/BPA agreement, and only 100 were to vote to retain it, the agreement would continue because that would be less than the required 40% even though the voting in this example would be 25:1 in favour of ending the agreement,” the PDAU said.

PDAU assistant general secretary Mark Pitt, said: “The law relating to trade union derecognition ballots requires not only that we obtain a majority in the ballot, but at least 40% of those entitled to vote, do vote for change.”

He added: “The ballot is not about the future of the BPA, nor about who can join the BPA or indeed anything else. If the Boots/BPA agreement ends, the company and the BPA can continue to work together as they did for almost 40 years before they signed the agreement.

“The ballot outcome will create a legally enforceable decision as to what happens to the agreement that currently blocks the PDA Union from being able to obtain recognition and so be able to negotiate on terms and conditions such as pay, hours and other working conditions on behalf of those employees.”