AmerisourceBergen to acquire Alliance Healthcare in $6.5bn deal


AmerisourceBergen Corporation and Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. today announced strategic agreements under which AmerisourceBergen will acquire the majority of Walgreens Boots Alliance’s Alliance Healthcare businesses for approximately $6.5 billion, comprised of $6.275 billion in cash and 2 million shares of AmerisourceBergen common stock.


In addition to this transaction, the two companies have agreed to strengthen their strategic partnership by extending and expanding their commercial agreements. Their US distribution agreement will be extended by three years until 2029 and their partnership is being expanded to include a commitment to pursue additional opportunities in sourcing and distribution. Furthermore, Alliance Healthcare UK will remain the distribution partner of Boots until 2031.


Stefano Pessina, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO, Walgreens Boots Alliance commented:


“This strategic agreement with AmerisourceBergen, which we consider to be the world’s leading pharmaceutical wholesaler, is a very positive development for the two companies. This deal will enable significant value creation for both companies and will generate new synergies in addition to those already captured. It is a logical step following the success of our long-term strategic relationship with AmerisourceBergen which has been a strong and trusted partner since 2013.


“The transaction will fuel higher future investments to grow and transform our core retail pharmacy and healthcare businesses, and is EPS accretive long-term for Walgreens Boots Alliance.”


Steven Collis, Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer of AmerisourceBergen commented:


“AmerisourceBergen’s vital role in the health system as a key pillar of pharmaceutical innovation and access has been on full display over the past year. AmerisourceBergen’s financial and strategic position enables this next evolution of enhancing our ability to provide healthcare capabilities across regions and deliver innovative solutions for our upstream and downstream partners.


“Today’s announcements will expand our reach and solutions in pharmaceutical distribution and add to AmerisourceBergen’s breadth and depth of global manufacturer services, supporting our ability to create differentiated value for all our stakeholders.


“I look forward to extending and expanding our successful partnership with Walgreens Boots Alliance and welcoming the industry-leading team at Alliance Healthcare to AmerisourceBergen. Together, we will fulfil AmerisourceBergen’s purpose of being united in our responsibility to create healthier futures.”





PDA Union challenges pay freeze offered to Boots pharmacists


The annual pay negotiations between Boots and the Pharmacist Defence Association (PDA) have been referred to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) in the hope they can help the employer and employee representatives reach an agreement after Boots pharmacists were offered a pay freeze this year.


On 10th September, the PDA wrote to members who work at Boots to provide an update on the ongoing pay discussions, following the company announced that a companywide pay freeze was to be implemented with no increases made in November. The announcement reflected that negotiations were underway with the PDA Union for pharmacists covered by the PDA Union Boots recognition agreement.


As a result, further meetings have taken place with Boots with the most recent being on 24th September. Although some progress has been made to the original pay claim, details of which can be found here, it has not been possible to reach an agreement so far because of disagreements over the pay element of the claim.


Following the company’s statement and confirmation that it was, in fact, the intention to offer a 0% increase to pharmacists, the PDA Union negotiating team tabled a counter-offer designed to reflect the company’s position that it could not agree to a pay increase against the background of redundancies and uncertain economic data.


This counter-offer was for a one-off £1000 lump sum payable on 1st November to reflect the commitment and professionalism shown by members during the COVID-19 crisis and an agreement to suspend the pay discussions until January 2021 with a view to reaching an agreement for a pay increase from April 2021, in effect limiting the pay freeze to 6 months rather than 12.


In a joint statement by Boots and the PDA, Anne Higgins, Director of Stores Pharmacy, Boots UK and Paul Moloney, National Officer, PDA Union commented:


“Representatives from Boots and the PDA Union have been meeting regularly since July to hold constructive talks regarding the pay claim submitted by the PDA Union along with requests for changes to other terms and conditions of employment. The latest of these meetings was on 24th September 2020.


“Both parties acknowledge the challenge of concluding negotiations in the exceptional circumstances of the pandemic and current economic conditions, while also recognising the hard work and commitment of pharmacists during what has been an unusual and difficult time for colleagues.


“Both parties recognise that good progress has been made on some of the key issues included in the claim and the discussions have also taken into account the company’s recent statements about zero pay increases for other groups of colleagues. However, so far, it has not been possible to reach an overall agreement due to differences regarding the pay claim itself.


“The recognition agreement signed by Boots and the PDA union last year sets the framework for these discussions. Under that agreement, if differences between the company and the union remain, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), an independent public body, can be invited to assist in helping both sides to find ways of reaching an agreement.
At the conclusion of the September meeting, although both parties remain hopeful that there remains the potential to reach common ground on a number of issues, the next step in the process will be to engage ACAS for their assistance.


“It is expected this part of the process will take a few weeks but a further joint statement will be issued at the conclusion of the discussions with ACAS to update you.”


*ACAS is an independent public body that receives funding from the government. They provide free and impartial advice to employers, employees and their representatives on employment rights, best practice and policies and resolving workplace conflict.



Boots to cut 4000 jobs as company pivots towards digital


Boots has today announced that it is taking action as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and will be initiating a ‘significant restructuring’.


Boots UK has said in a statement on its website that it is ‘taking decisive action to mitigate the significant impact that COVID-19 has had on the business and is accelerating the next phase of the Boots Transformation Plan’.


As a result of this decision, there will be a reduction of its headcount of more than 4,000 employees across its head office, store teams and opticians teams.


The move will also mean the closure of 48 Boots Opticians stores.


Boots has said that it does not expect the proposals to impact our pharmacists or pharmacy advisors.


The company stated that the move is aimed at ‘ensuring a long-term and healthy future for the UK’s leading pharmacy, health and beauty business.’


The acceleration of the ‘Transformation Plan’ will see continued investment into online and digital services.


Referring to the pharmacy aspect of the Boots business the statement goes on to say that ‘with further continued investment in digital and online pharmacy and retail services, Boots will provide new ways for patients to receive even more access to its trusted pharmacy care and advice.’


Sebastian James, Managing Director, Boots UK, said:


“The proposals announced today are decisive actions to accelerate our Transformation Plan, allow Boots to continue its vital role as part of the UK health system, and ensure profitable long-term growth. In doing this, we are building a stronger and more modern Boots for our customers, patients and colleagues.


“I am so very grateful to all our colleagues for their dedication during the last few challenging months. They have stepped forward to support their communities, our customers and the NHS during this time, and I am extremely proud to be serving alongside them.


“We recognise that today’s proposals will be very difficult for the remarkable people who make up the heart of our business, and we will do everything in our power to provide the fullest support during this time.”



Boots seek to reassure customers as new normal approaches


Boots has moved to reassure customers of its plans to continue providing a safe shopping experience and safe working environment in stores across the UK.


Since the beginning of lockdown Boots was named an essential retailer, prioritising the safety of customers and colleagues to keep the majority of stores open and ensuring everyone had access to a pharmacy to get the prescriptions, essential medicines, advice and support they need.


Some new and updated safety measures include; managing the number of people in-store, a triaging process for different customers’ needs, dedicated social distancing champions, one-way routes for selected stores, and more signage to help maintain a 2-metre distance.


A new wave of PPE is rolling out including additional perspex screens to cover all counters, tills, self-checkouts and areas that have not been recently utilised. Boots was the first retailer to introduce perspex visors, and colleagues will continue to receive them along with other PPE equipment. Hand sanitising stations are being trialled in stores and key touchpoints will be regularly cleaned.


There will be some changes to the way people can shop beauty products in-store with the temporary removal of testers and face to face consultations, but customers can now experience the first-ever virtual beauty service with No7.  The online video consultations offer 15–20-minute personalised, one-to-one service with a No7 advisor for cosmetic and skin care advice.


Tracey Clements, Chief Operating Officer of Boots UK and ROI said:


“We’ve learnt a great deal over the last eight weeks and the additional measures we are putting in place will allow us to adapt to a radically different retail world. Many of the developments are based on feedback from our colleagues who are looking forward to welcoming back more customers. Hygiene, social distancing and protection for customers and colleagues continues to be our focus.”


For those who may face the high street with trepidation, Boots is exploring geo-targeted ads that will let people know when their local store is less busy, and customers can also still choose to shop on Many people have recently moved to online shopping and Boots responded to demand by doubling capacity and finding new ways to facilitate orders. At times product ranges online have been optimised, but more lines continue to be brought back every day.


Boots recruits more than 500 prescription delivery drivers


Boots has increased the number of drivers delivering prescriptions to vulnerable people across the UK, hiring more than 500 additional drivers. They have also introduced prescription delivery in another 40 stores across the UK.


Over the last 6 months, Boots has recruited on average one PDC driver per day but throughout March, they recruited on average 80 PDC drivers each day.


The new recruits will join Boots Pharmacy Delivery and Collection team, who continue to help local communities during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by delivering essential prescription medicines to those who are self-isolating or cannot get to their local pharmacy can have the medicines they need to be delivered to their door.


Four weeks ago, Boots delivered an average of 90,000 prescriptions a week, increasing to an estimated 150,000 in the last week. To support the existing PDC network, over 400 new vehicles have now been added to the fleet.


Boots has said that many of these workers have lost their jobs or are unable to work normally due to COVID-19.


Nathan Clements, HR Director, Boots UK and ROI, comments:


“As an essential public service, Boots has a special role and duty to support the NHS in any way we can. I’d like to thank all our colleagues, particularly those who have recently joined us – not only as drivers, but also in our warehouses and pharmacies, and our partners, who are stepping forward onto the front line to help care for patients across the UK.”




PDAU secure pay rise for Boots pharmacists


The Pharmacist Defence Association Union (PDAU) and Boots have jointly announced further pay increases for pharmacists at the company.


The annual salary for Newly Qualified Pharmacists* (NQPs) is to be increased to £36,600** with effect from February 2020 and a further increase is to follow in the Autumn for Boots’ lowest paid pharmacists including those who are currently newly qualified.


In 2019 the PDA union and Boots held a series of talks on pharmacist pay during which the union called upon the company to work together to improve the recruitment and retention of pharmacists at the company. This measure builds on the main pay settlement announced in November and is expected to help start to achieve that objective.


With another cohort of newly qualified pharmacists due in summer 2020, who will also receive the new £36,600 rate, this could have meant no differential between those qualifying in 2019 and those qualifying in 2020. The union and company have therefore agreed that the current NQPs will receive an additional 3.8% increase in August to increase their annual salaries to £38,000. Any other pharmacists at Boots currently earning less than this figure will also have their pay increased in August.


Joint Statement – Boots UK and PDAU Joint Negotiating Body

Further to the agreements made in the 2019 pay settlement and positive ongoing discussions, it has been agreed to award a further increase to Newly Qualified Pharmacists (NQPs)


In 2019 it was negotiated that all colleagues within the bargaining unit who are substantively appointed and performing in the role will be paid at least 80% of the market rate for their role. To complete the implementation of this commitment it has been agreed that from February 2020 the salary for NQPs across Boots UK will be £36,600 pro rata. “Newly Qualified Pharmacists” are those in their first year of practice post qualification This will also be the minimum starting salary for any individual recruited into a pharmacist role.


To maintain differentials between existing colleagues and those who will be appointed as NQPs after qualifying in Summer/Autumn of 2020, the 2019-20 Newly Qualified Pharmacists and any other pharmacist whose pay is less than £38,000 pro-rata will have their pay increased to this amount in August 2020.


Both Boots UK and PDA Union believe these steps will improve the recruitment and retention of newly qualified pharmacists.


Kind regards,


Anne Higgins, Director of Stores Scotland and Northern Ireland – Boots UK
Paul Day, PDAU National Officer


The February and August increases mean that for current NQPs the overall increase to their current salary over the next eight months will be 11.8%.


Mark Pitt, Assistant General Secretary at the PDA Union explained:


“The NQP rate at Boots has remained static for many years and as part of our recognition campaign we pledged to tackle this unfairness.  We are delighted to announce that after just seven months of commencing pay negotiations at Boots, we’ve been able to agree with the company a significant pay increase of 7.6% for newly qualified pharmacists.  This will be a welcome boost for this group as they start their career journey with Boots.”


Mr Pitt concluded:


“Pharmacists can already see the benefit of PDA Union recognition in what we have achieved since we began representing Boots pharmacists last summer.  Our influence increases the more members we have, so I urge any pharmacist at Boots who has not yet joined us, to consider joining us today so we can secure even more for pharmacists”


*Newly Qualified Pharmacists” are those in their first year of practice post-qualification.

** All salaries quoted in this article are full-time equivalents based on a 40 hour week.  Part-timers are paid pro-rata salaries.