With only five days left until the ballot opens, things have been moving swiftly with Boots and the PDA. This vote will give colleagues employed by Boots pharmacy the opportunity to “vote for a better future and an independent voice at work”1. The PDA believes this ballot will have far-reaching implications for the wider profession1.
What’s been going on recently?
Social media was abuzz earlier in January with comments about the news that Boots have bought a technology company (previously known as WigglyAmps LTD) with a view to making things simpler and quicker for patients2. Whether this acquisition will make things easier for patients remains to be seen, but automation suggests there may be redundancies on the horizon at Boots. The PDA has also been busy trying to encourage Boots to support their application to allow ballot papers to be issued as soon as possible. The PDA applied to the Central Arbitration Committee to order the Ballot papers to go out ASAP after day one, but Boots opposed the application and the central arbitration committee refused the application too. Boots refused the request so they could avoid any undue confusion, but the PDA argued that pharmacists are able to cope with a change in date and that this view is not consistent with Boots’ plan for maximum participation from their pharmacists3. The ballot papers will, therefore, be released on the eleventh day of the ballot, which falls on Monday 18th February2. Completed ballot papers must be received by the Qualified Independent Person (QIP) by no later than noon on Monday 11 March2.
Do Boots Pharmacists actually want the PDA recognised?
The PDA report that some Boots pharmacists are in support of them and that they are contacting the PDA to request maximum voting time4 and are also taking a proactive approach to encourage other pharmacists to join the PDA5. Boots pharmacists have also contacted the PDA about the Boots pay and reward system which they believe to be unfair. In this system, the company needs to maintain their performance management grading system and therefore 15% of pharmacists are arbitrarily graded as underperforming, 70% as performing, and 15% as overperforming as part of a forced distribution model6. Under forced distribution, it is in an individual’s interest that they are seen to perform better than some of their colleagues6. Pharmacists have contacted the PDA about this and one such pharmacist said: “My current line manager has been very supportive but has openly admitted that there is a bell curve and that if there aren’t enough ‘not performing’ results then so-called ‘calibration meetings’ are held to redistribute people into those bottom spots. It seems that everyone must take a turn”7.
What can the PDA do?
The PDA can use the power of collective bargaining to ensure better working conditions and pay. In the case of the forced distribution model, the PDA say that in 9 out of 10 cases of pharmacists who challenge an underperforming grading through the PDA Union, are successful in getting it improved6.
With only five days to go, it is imperative that all 7000 of the eligible voters make sure Boots hold all the correct contact information as the ballot card will be sent to home addresses. The Central Arbitration Committee has also issued an official notice of the Boots ballot8. This legal notice must be displayed in all workplaces where eligible voters are based and include instructions on what to do if you do not receive ballot papers8. Remember, at least 40% of voters need to vote ‘yes’ to recognise the PDA.
What does the official notice of the Boots ballot say8?
This ballot is being held to decide whether PDAU is to be recognised by your employer, Boots Management Services Ltd, for collective bargaining on pay, hours and holidays. The ballot is being organised by Kanto Elect, which has been appointed by the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) as part of a statutory process under the legislation covering trade union recognition.
You are entitled to vote if you are a worker in the following group: “All registered and pre-registration store-based pharmacists at levels 5,6 and 7 who are employed by Boots Management Services Ltd”.
You can vote whether or not you are a union member. You may receive correspondence from the Union through the post. This material is sent out on the union’s behalf by the balloting agent – the union does not have the names and addresses of non-members.
Ballot papers will be posted to your home address on 18 February 2019 and must be received by Kanto Elect no later than noon on 11 March 2019.
If you consider that you are eligible to vote and have not received a ballot paper by 22 February 2019, or if you do not think that you are eligible to vote but receive a ballot paper, please contact the CAC Case Manager, Linda Lehan, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org giving your full name and address. If you have recently changed your address and you have not informed your employer you should do so as soon as possible to ensure you receive your ballot paper on time.
The ballot papers are numbered to ensure fair conduct of the ballot and the ballot is completely secret. Only Kanto Elect has a record of the numbers (any duplicate ballot paper that is issued will have a different number). Neither the employer or the union will know how you have voted.”
Where can I get more information?
The PDA has a dedicated section on their website for anyone interested in more details: https://www.the-pda.org/boots-recognition/
Put a reminder in your calendar now for the 18th February to vote in this ballot!
Send your completed ballot paper back as soon as possible – the deadline is 11th March at noon!
Don’t miss your chance to have a say in your working conditions and pay!
Wajeeha Mir MPharm