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.