Diageo workers threaten strikes after ‘insulting’ pay offer

17th July, 2019 by Nicola Carruthers

Johnnie Walker owner Diageo could be hit by strike action from its Scottish workforce following the “overwhelming” rejection of an “insulting” pay offer.

Diageo’s Cambus Cooperage in Scotland

Yesterday (16 July), trade union Unite Scotland confirmed it would move to ballot its members who work across Diageo’s Scottish operations for strike action.

The ballot comes after 95% of the firm’s Scottish workers rejected the UK drinks giant’s pay offer of 2.5% increase after weeks of negotiations.

Unite also said the pay offer comes after Diageo, the world’s biggest distiller, reported operating profit for its fiscal 2018 at £3.7 billion (US$4.5bn), an increase of 3.7%.

Diageo also recently secured planning permission to create a global flagship visitor centre for blended Scotch whisky Johnnie Walker in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The Johnnie Walker visitor experience is the key focus of Diageo’s £150 million (US$215m) investment in Scotch whisky tourism, thought to be the single biggest investment in the sector to date.

The investment has been pledged in addition to Diageo’s £35m (US$44.9m) project to bring Port Ellen and Brora back into production.

Unite regional industrial officer Bob McGregor said: “Diageo appears willing to spend millions creating a whisky shop for Edinburgh’s tourists, while offering the workers who built the Diageo brands we all know and recognise a paltry 2.5%.

“This offer is not only insulting, it’s disgusting given the profits made off the backs of hard working Unite members, who deserve a fairer share of the profits they generate for this hugely successful company.”

Smirnoff maker Diageo said it remains “open to continued talks to secure an acceptable resolution”.

A Diageo spokesperson said: “Annual wage negotiations have been taking place with both the GMB and Unite unions in Scotland.

“Following a consultative ballot of their members, the unions have rejected our offer, equal to an increase of 2.8% on overall benefit and pay packages for our employees.

“This offer is made in the context of maintaining a strong reward package and the need for our manufacturing operations to remain competitive.”

Over the past six years, Diageo has invested US$1bn in building its Scotch whisky infrastructure to boost international exports.

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