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Diageo Scotland workers prepare to strike

Johnnie Walker owner Diageo faces serious disruption to its Scottish operations from tomorrow (17 September) as workers prepare to strike over pay disputes.

Diageo faces strike action across its Scottish operations on numerous dates between 17-27 September

On 23 August, 80.5% of GMB Scotland members at Diageo voted in favour of strike action following “months of pay talks”.

In a statement ahead of tomorrow’s planned strike action, a Diageo spokesperson said: “Meetings have been scheduled with the unions. We want our employees in Scotland to continue to be well paid for the great job they do and receive a rise above the cost of living.

“Everyone receives a broad range of strong benefits, which this month [September] included free shares worth 8.56% of salaries for every employee. We want to finalise an agreement through meaningful talks with the union groups but have contingency plans in place in the event of strike action.”

Diageo, which also owns Smirnoff vodka and Tanqueray gin, had proposed a 2.8% “final offer” pay increase for more than 3,000 of its Scottish workers.

However, GMB Scotland said discussions mediated through the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) with Diageo “collapsed” on 30 August after the group refused to increase its offer.

The union said the vote came about after Diageo released its 2019 financial results, which showed pre-tax profits of more than £4.2 billion (US$5.1bn), a share buyback programme worth £4.5bn (US$5.5bn) and a 30% pay rise for Diageo chief executive officer Ivan Menezes, which took his salary to £11.7 million (US$14.2m).

On 3 September, GMB Scotland gave Diageo notice of its intention to strike from 17 September until 27 September. It warned the action would “severely” impact Diageo’s bottling, maturation and distillery operations across the country, including Lagavulin Distillery, Talisker Distillery, Glenkinchie Distillery, Caol Ila Distillery and Port Ellen maltings.

The industrial action will take place at all of Diageo’s maturation sites and distilleries, excluding Cameronbridge Distillery and Leven, from 17-18 September and 26-27 September. Strike action will affect the Shieldhall bottling plant from 19-20 September and 26-27 September.

Workers will take strike action at grain distillery Cameronbridge and Leven on 18-19 September and 26-27 September.

Diageo has assured that the company has “well developed contingency plans in the event of industrial action”, and that it is a “very good employer” that remains “committed to seeking a resolution and ensuring our employees receive an increase on their pay alongside maintaining the competitiveness of our operations”.

However, GMB Scotland has previously accused Diageo of “insatiable corporate greed” and said its salary request was a “moderate proposal against the backdrop of Diageo’s absolutely staggering financial results, which workers in Scotland have more than helped to deliver”.

The Spirits Business has approached GMB Scotland for an updated comment ahead of tomorrow’s planned strike action.

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