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Home  »   PDA UnionLatest News   »   #PizzaIsNotWorking


There are shared issues faced by pharmacists working for larger employers around the world. By working internationally, the PDA can learn about such topics and work collectively to improve the situation.

Thu 16th June 2022 PDA Union

The PDA recognise that pharmacy is a global profession, and as a trade union the organisation is also part of the international union movement.  For this reason, the PDA respectfully engage with colleagues from across the world in order to learn from each other, to generate global unity across the profession and to find practical methods of mutual support amongst employed and locum pharmacists across nations.

For example, in the United States, Bled Tanoe, PharmD, started a campaign to raise awareness about pharmacy working conditions and burnout.  A single blog she published unexpectedly launched a viral hashtag #Pizzaisnotworking which has now grown into a significant and influential movement for US pharmacists.

The campaign’s name originated because some large corporations have a reputation for offering their employees discussion sessions featuring “free pizza” rather than addressing the genuine issues pharmacists have about workload and safety.  As the campaign has highlighted, pharmacists know that “Pizza” and other mundane incentives do not adequately address the unrealistic expectations placed on community pharmacists by corporations, which lead to an emphasis on metrics rather than on patient safety.  Yet some employers continue to repeat this failing “Pizza” approach.

PDA Chairman and Secretary General of EPhEU, Mark Koziol, recently wrote formally to Bled Tanoe confirming that issues reported in the US such as employers claiming a shortage of pharmacists, shortening opening hours, etc are also seen here in the UK.

You can read Mark’s letter here:

Dear Dr Tanoe,

As you know from conversations with my colleagues, I am the Chairman of the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) in the United Kingdom (UK) and the Secretary General, of the Employed Pharmacists of the European Union (EPhEU) federation which represents pharmacists across many European countries.  I write to let you and your colleagues know that the #Pizzaisnotworking movement has been seen from Europe and to congratulate you on your efforts to raise the interests of employed pharmacists in a sector dominated by the interests of pharmacy owning businesses.

Several of the concerns we have seen you raise resonate with those of us in Europe, particularly the disconnect between the interests of large corporations focused on generating shareholder returns, vs. the purpose of the healthcare professionals they employ who are dedicated to safely providing pharmaceutical care to patients.

Though worker’s rights, employment culture and the structural mechanisms for regulating and communicating across pharmacy may differ from country to country, as fellow pharmacists we have far more in common than that which sets us apart.  We are connected as part of the global pharmacist profession.

As Community Pharmacy sectors consolidate and the days of each pharmacy being operated by a pharmacist-owner have passed into history, most pharmacists in the UK are now employed or locums (freelance). In many European countries our response has been to form independent trade unions for pharmacists.

As independent bodies, trade unions here can add the genuine voice of pharmacists to the pharmacy eco-system, existing alongside the equivalent of what you would know as Boards and Associations at the state and federal level.  Trade unions can also interact with the organisations that represent pharmacy businesses, as well as government, patient groups and other stakeholders.

In the United Kingdom, which has a national population approaching 70 million people and around 60,000 registered pharmacists practicing across all areas of the profession, our union, the PDA, has existed for 14 years and already exceeded 34,000 members. Our members are in community, hospital, medical practitioner’s practices, and everywhere else that you may find a pharmacist. We continue to grow and to do more for our members.

Among our achievements has been securing the right to negotiate pay for pharmacists at the largest employer in the UK, Boots, which is of course a part of Walgreens.  Despite years of anti-union activity from that corporation, we eventually won a legal process to obtain that right in 2019. We now negotiate for annual pay increases and address other concerns.

We believe that medicines are not ordinary items of commerce and pharmaceutical care must not be treated as simply a commercial transaction.  A pharmacist must be present for a pharmacy to operate and if there is no pharmacist present, a community pharmacy becomes just a shop.

Yet pharmacists should not work alone, not just because of the risk of self-checking, but technicians and our other team colleagues are critical too.  However, our most recent annual Safer Pharmacies Survey shows that more than 97% of pharmacists responding to our survey in the UK have experienced unsafe staffing levels. We recognise that in this scenario pharmacists often risk their own wellbeing to keep patients safe, something which is unsustainable.  As a result, many pharmacists then leave the profession, or at least that sector. Some employers now struggle to fill shifts, due to the very working environment that they have created.

Some employers now seek to reduce opening hours rather than pay the rates required to engage a locum or fix the poor working environment, which we fear creates a cycle of decline for the sector.

However, all is not lost, and we still believe there can be a better future for our profession.  During the most severe periods of lockdown during the pandemic, it was only sources of food and medicines that remained open for the public and the importance of pharmacy has finally been understood by more of the public and decision makers.  As the UK faces the post-covid future there is real opportunity for pharmacy to reach our potential at the heart of the health system, just as the local pharmacy is already at the heart of each community.

We reiterate that as a profession we should be united around the world and wish you and your professional colleagues in the US well in highlighting and resolving the various challenges faced by the profession in your country.

Yours sincerely

Act now

In the UK we already have an independent trade union exclusively for pharmacists.  To find out how you can get more involved in the PDA’s activities, click here

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The Pharmacists' Defence Association is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England; Company No 4746656.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is an appointed representative in respect of insurance mediation activities only of
The Pharmacy Insurance Agency Limited which is registered in England and Wales under company number 2591975
and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Register No 307063)

The PDA Union is recognised by the Certification Officer as an independent trade union.

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