The Pharmacists’ Defence Association Union (PDAU) has renewed its calls for an extension to the vote that will decide if pharmacists at Boots can have independent trade union representation after some voters complained they had not received their ballot papers.

Nearly 1% of Boots employees told the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) on the first day of voting that they did not have the papers needed to take part. Ballot papers were supposed to have arrived at pharmacists’ homes on or before May 12 and pharmacists were told to contact the CAC if they had not arrived two days later.

The PDAU, who reported the number of calls received was so high the committee had to add an email contact for voters to get in touch, said “the accuracy of the address information provided by Boots is the issue.”

Voting papers were sent by Kanto Elect, the company managing the ballot process, using the names and addresses of voters, information which was provided by Boots.

The PDAU also complained that information it sent to help pharmacists make “informed decisions based on facts” was supposed to arrive at the same time as the ballot papers.

“It is not yet clear how copies of these items will get to those who have not yet received their papers,” the PDAU said.

Ballot papers must be returned by May 23 and given the CAC has refused to grant an extension once already, time is running out for pharmacists to lodge their vote.

PDA Union assistant general secretary Mark Pitt said: “We are very disappointed by this entirely avoidable problem. It’s not just that we would expect an employer to hold the basic contact details of their own employees but Boots have known about this postal ballot for months and had given assurances about the accuracy of the information it holds. They have had more than enough time to verify the quality of their data.”

He added: “In addition, there are a number of pharmacists on annual leave this week who will expect their ballot papers to be waiting on their doormat when they return this weekend. In practice it may be too late to vote by the time they are able to request duplicate papers on Monday, May 21.

“In a ballot that requires 40% of those eligible to vote to actually vote for change, this is a worrying development and although we have already had one request declined we are asking again for an extension to the timetable on the basis of fresh information.

“Every eligible pharmacist should be in receipt of the same information at the time of voting and their vote must be able to be received within the ballot period, hence in these circumstances we believe that the ballot period needs to be extended.”

When contacted by Pharmacy Business Richard Bradley, pharmacy director at Boots UK, said: “We respect the right of our colleagues to be members of a trade union of their choice. Boots has communicated regularly with pharmacists on the timetable for the ballot process.

“Leaders were briefed to update any changes to home addresses promptly when the official ballot period started and we have updated the Central Arbitration Committee on any address changes recorded on our HR admin system over the last week.

“We have also provided daily updates on any changes to the bargaining unit such as joiners and leavers. The ballot process and mail out of ballot papers is being run by the appointed qualified independent person; Kanto Elect and the number of pharmacists who we are aware did not receive a ballot paper equates to 0.7% of a total bargaining unit of nearly 7,000.

“Pharmacists who are eligible to vote and haven’t received a ballot paper can still email the CAC and voting doesn’t close for another seven days (May 23). We await the CAC’s decision on whether to extend the ballot period or not.”

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