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Diageo strikes could ‘halt’ whisky making

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Diageo’s Scotch whisky operations could ‘grind to a halt’ after some of its Scottish workers voted in favour of strike action.

Bottles of Johnnie Walker
Scotch strike: The sites affected by Diageo’s pay dispute handle the bottling of Johnnie Walker, among other brands

Members of Unite the union working at Diageo’s Cameronbridge, Leven and Shieldhall plants voted in favour of industrial action following what they call an ‘insulting’ proposed pay rise of 2.5%.

During discussions, Diageo offered an alternative 2.8% pay rise offer, which Unite members also deemed ‘insignificant’.

Around 43% of Diageo’s Scottish workforce are members of the Unite or GMB unions.

The whisky producer, which operates 28 malt distilleries across Scotland in addition to the Cameronbridge grain distillery and bottling plants at Leven and Shieldhall, announced an increase in pre-tax profits during 2018/19 to £4.2 billion, which the union claimed has ‘infuriated’ workers.

Unite regional industrial officer Bob MacGregor, said: ‘Unite has received a clear and strong mandate for industrial action from our membership in Diageo’s largest distilling and bottling plants in Scotland.

‘The recent announcement in July of an increase in pre-tax profits to £4.2 billion alongside Diageo’s refusal to give a fair pay award has rightly infuriated the workers.’

MacGregor urged Diageo to continue discussions with union members to find a resolution.

‘If they do not, then Diageo’s operations will needlessly grind to a halt in the coming weeks,’ he added.

Unite said the strike action is likely to occur between September and November this year.

However a spokesperson for Diageo claimed the company has developed ‘contingency plans’ to ensure operations continue.

The spokesperson added: ‘The Unite union has confirmed that their members have voted in favour of strike action at sites in Scotland and we await confirmation of their next steps.

‘We have well developed contingency plans in the event of industrial action but remain committed to seeking a resolution and ensuring our employees receive an increase on their pay, alongside maintaining the competitiveness of our operations.

‘We are a very good employer and aim to ensure our staff are rewarded competitively; our pay and benefits for our bargaining group employees are in the top quartile for manufacturing in Scotland.’

Members of the GMB union are also being balloted over potential strike action, with the voting deadline this Friday (23 August).

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