Diageo facing wave of strikes in Scots pay dispute

Whisky and spirits giant Diageo is facing the possibility of disruption to its substantial Scottish operations after unions announced a planned series of strikes in a dispute over pay.

The union GMB Scotland said it served statutory notice to the company on Tuesday following the collapse of pay talks.

“A rolling programme of action will start on Tuesday 17 September and run until Friday 27 September, severely affecting Diageo’s bottling, maturation and distillery operations across Scotland and disrupting the production of staple brands such as Johnnie Walker, Gordon’s & Smirnoff …” said GMB Scotland.

“Last month, 80.5 per cent of GMB’s near 1,000 members supported moving to strike action after months of pay talks ended with Diageo tabling a 2.8 per cent ‘final offer’ for staff across it’s Scottish operations.

“ACAS talks collapsed last Friday with Diageo refusing to improve the previously rejected offer, despite recent pre-tax profits of over £4.2 billion, a share buyback bonanza worth £4.5 billion and a remarkable 30 per cent pay increase for chief executive Ivan Menezes – a hike which takes his total pay to £11.7 million.”

A Diageo spokesman said: “We are a very good employer and remain committed to seeking a resolution and ensuring our employees receive an increase on their pay, alongside maintaining the competitiveness of our operations. 

“We have well developed contingency plans in the event of industrial action.”

GMB Scotland Organiser Keir Greenaway said: “Strike action across Diageo’s Scottish operations is a consequence of the insatiable corporate greed within the hierarchy of this company.

“Our campaign for a pay deal that beats the cost of living for our members and their families is a modest proposal against the backdrop of Diageo’s absolutely staggering financial results, which workers in Scotland have more than helped to deliver.

“A huge chunk of Diageo’s credibility and success is built on the back of Scotland and the working class and rural communities that distil, mature, store and bottle their lucrative range of whiskies and white spirits.

“It begs the question: Why has the company spent months low-balling unions with pay offers that fail to tackle the cost of living? If any business can afford to make work pay for its employees it is Diageo. 

“A rising tide should lift all boats but instead we have to suffer the grotesque spectacle of Ivan Menezes and his shareholders carving-up the spoils while workers in Scotland get thrown scraps from the fat cats’ table.

“It’s just not credible and we aren’t going to leave this unchallenged. Diageo must get real on pay or they will be hit with a sustained wave of strike action affecting many of their most profitable brands.”

Unite the union also announced a series of strike action dates at Diageo’s Leven, Cameron Bridge and Shieldhall plants.

“Talks broke down between the trade unions involved in the dispute with Diageo on Friday (30 August) at the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) due to the failure to achieve a reasonable pay increase for the workforce,” said Unite.

“The dispute relates to the annual pay award as Unite’s membership rejected Diageo’s latest offer of 2.8 per cent pay through the consolidation of the product allowance.”

Unite regional industrial officer Bob MacGregor said: “Diageo has made minimal effort to resolve this dispute through negotiations, which is the central reason why talks broke down at Acas last week.

“Unite entered those talks with our sole objective being to achieve a fair pay award for the workforce and in doing so to avert strike action.

“Remember, this is a giant in the drinks industry which just announced an increase in pre-tax profits of £4.2 billion.

“Unite warned weeks ago that unless Diageo made a fair offer then our membership would take strike action.

“We have now reached that point. The door always remains open to further negotiations but strike action is now imminent.” 

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Mark McSherry
Dalriada Media LLC sites are edited by veteran news journalist Mark McSherry, a former staff editor and reporter with Reuters, Bloomberg and major newspapers including the South China Morning Post, London's Sunday Times and The Scotsman. McSherry's journalism has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, London's Evening Standard and Forbes. McSherry is also a professor of journalism and communication arts in universities and colleges in New York City. Scottish-born McSherry has an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University.