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Boots wins ‘short term’ victory over PDA in legal battle over union recognition


21 Feb 2017

The Pharmacist’s Defence Association Union (PDAU) has lost its appeal against a High Court decision that Boots will only have to recognise the organisation if its workers vote to derecognise its own union, the Boots Pharmacists Association (BPA).

Although the PDAU’s case against the High Court’s 2014 ruling was unsuccessful, the appeal judges agreed that ‘this may only be a short-term victory for Boots, since a route has been identified under which the PDAU can seek to take advantage of the statutory recognition procedure’.

The result is the latest development in a legal saga between the two pharmacy unions that, according to the judges, began when Boots officially recognised the BPA with a very limited scope ‘to prevent the PDAU being able to take advantage of the statutory procedures to seek compulsory recognition.’

Responding to the ruling, a Boots UK spokesperson said: ‘We have always respected the right of our colleagues to become members of a trade union of their choice.

‘The BPA represents the interests of all Boots’ pharmacists and our productive relationship provides an effective means of communicating with pharmacists and taking account of their views, along with direct discussions with pharmacists themselves and our Employee Forum.’

It will continue to formally recognise the BPA and is currently considering the implications of the judgment, it added.

The PDAU said it will be ‘energetic’ in seeking to hold Boots to account over its treatment of pharmacists if given the collective bargaining rights.

Approved ruling

On 13 February, the Court of Appeal unanimously upheld a previous High Court finding that Boots did not violate its workers’ rights under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights by limiting the BPA’s collective bargaining powers.

A panel of three senior judges dismissed the PDAU’s appeal, which was heard on 22 and 23 November 2016, on the grounds that members of the BPA can vote to derecognise their union’s collective bargaining rights, which would allow the PDAU to apply for recognition.

Boots pharmacists can apply for the PDAU to bargain with their employer on their behalf if they first vote to derecognise the BPA’s power to do so, it was ruled.

Currently, the BPA holds Boots employees’ collective bargaining rights, but only in relation to facilities for trade union officials and machinery for negotiation or consultation. The union is specifically excluded from fighting for changes to pay, hours, holidays, matters of discipline or physical working conditions.

Derecognition

In order to derecognise the BPA’s ability to represent them in negotiations, Boots workers will need to apply to the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) to have the bargaining arrangements ended.

The application has to be made by a worker, not by a trade union. The CAC must then find that at least 10% of the workers constituting the bargaining unit favour or would be likely to favour an end of the bargaining arrangements.

If they don’t reach an agreement, the CAC must conduct a ballot of the workers on whether the bargaining arrangements should be ended. If at least 40% vote to end the deal, the CAC must issue a declaration that the terms will end on a specified date.


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