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'The PDA Union's victory at Boots could change pharmacy forever'

"The PDA Union's victory should be celebrated by pharmacists from every corner of the profession"

The Multiple Manager predicts that Boots' pharmacists voting for the PDA Union could bring about far-reaching changes for the whole of the sector

March 12, 8.30am. Too early for work, too late to get a coffee. I sat in my car, waiting for the day to begin. Flicking through my phone to kill time, I found the biggest news to hit pharmacy in years was front and centre.

‘Boots pharmacists vote overwhelmingly for PDA Union’. Overwhelming was no overstatement here: 92% of pharmacists who voted chose to be represented in negotiations by the Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) Union and in doing so, may have changed the face of community pharmacy for all of us.

It didn’t take a genius to know this result was coming. Over the years, Boots pharmacists have seen many changes to the company that some of them have worked at for their whole professional lives. Last ditch attempts from senior executives appeared to fall on deaf ears. I only hope they realised just how badly they were defeated. Surely, they saw this coming? Surely this wasn’t some sort of shock to them? If nine of my 10 employees were dissatisfied with my management, I would like to think I’d know about it.

The PDA Union has won a major victory, and one which should be celebrated by pharmacists from every corner of the profession. After some mild initial gloating – and after eight years of fighting, who can blame them? – the PDA Union cut a conciliatory tone, pledging to work together with Boots management to better the profession. It didn’t take long however, for the PDA Union to set its sights much higher. Later that day, national officer Paul Day declared that hunting season was open and every other multiple was in the firing line. This struggle for representation will not end with Boots. Indeed, it has only begun.

The pharmacy profession, as far as healthcare professions go, is in a unique position. Nurses and doctors have strong, unified and organised unions, whose sole purpose is to protect the interests of their members. Pharmacy for too long has found itself caught between protecting the pharmacies and the pharmacists, to the detriment of both.

If the government releases a vague policy that doctors don’t like, you can be assured that a representative from the British Medical Association will be sitting on every couch on breakfast TV, arguing every point on the radio talk shows. By the end of the day, the policy will be either watered down or removed altogether. We don’t have that unified voice. We are a fractured, disjointed rag-tag bunch with no common purpose and we get taken advantage of when it comes to funding.

The public doesn’t care if a large corporation is struggling to keep small stores open due to funding cuts. But people might care about a local pharmacist who cannot provide adequate care to their elderly relatives because they have no time to counsel effectively. Winning the argument is all about how you frame the argument. Boots may not like the outcome of this vote, but if it leads to us all starting to speak as one, the true result could surprise them.

The Multiple Manager works in a Northern Irish branch of a major pharmacy chain

8 Comments

Gramo Vox , Community pharmacist

It is never too late, in my opinion, for this to have come. Our current working conditions are unsatisfactory to say the least. Who of us thought 5,10,15 or 20 years ago that we would be working like this now? Who knows what is around the corner, and the PDA seems to be the only group fighting our corner.

Aldosterone antagonist, Locum pharmacist

'If the government releases a vague policy that doctors don’t like, you can be assured that a representative from the British Medical Association will be sitting on every couch on breakfast TV, arguing every point on the radio talk shows. By the end of the day, the policy will be either watered down or removed altogether. We don’t have that unified voice. We are a fractured, disjointed rag-tag bunch with no common purpose and we get taken advantage of when it comes to funding'

This is so true, sadly for us pharmacists, we don't speak up alot as a whole

Z Z, Pharmacy Asistant/ Medicine Counter Assistant

It's a good tactical victory.

The work only just begins. 

The BMA is the most effective or second most effective trades union in the land. Comparing the PDA or any other union to that is rather funny.

What makes great trades unions are great reps and great members, not the head office machine. In a sector where people don't work together I'm very sceptical of much changing. Also beware recognition agreements, once a trade union has that there is the tendency to sit back and coast.

Pharmacy Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Excellent article. Absolutely spot on. 

NewLocum Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Great article! Sadly what I have found even in my not so long career as a pharmacist is that pharmacists can be their own worst enemies. If pharmacists were to truly come together, things would be much better for us. Mutiples can not do much if pharmacists come together. Pharmacies cannot be run without pharmacists, we need to keep remembering that. What a sorry state of affairs when there are companies are offering Locums £14 an hour!!! These companies are not our friends. Too long have pharmacists put up with their ridiculous attitudes towards us. Enough is enough.

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

Together ! just in time time before being subbed for robots.

Saddened Old Timer, Community pharmacist

Great article - stronger together ! 

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

Sadly, as much as this PDA  victory should be applauded, it has come too late for the profession. Unifying as one now for community pharmacists is akin to the poor souls of the good ship Titanic all holding hands in the hope it would not sink

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