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Chivas avoids strike action after new pay offer

GMB and Unite members have accepted an ‘improved’ wage offer from Pernod Ricard’s Chivas Brothers arm, averting strike action across the firm’s Scottish operations.

Chivas Brothers produces Chivas Regal blended Scotch whisky

Chivas Brothers workers, who are members of trade unions Unite and GMB, were due to go on strike at a number of sites across Scotland at the end of May.

Chivas had offered a pay freeze to its workers, which led to the unions balloting their members for strike action. Unite members voted for strike action by 82% on a 62% turnout, while more than four fifths of GMB members backed calls for industrial action.

Following discussions through Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas), Chivas presented a new offer to its staff in late May.

The offer will mean that Chivas workers will receive a wage increase of 2.5% or inflation on 1 July 2021, depending on which is highest, and a pay rise of 2% or inflation on 1 July 2022. Members of both unions voted to accept the offer on Friday (18 June).

Chivas Brothers, Pernod Ricard’s Scotch whisky arm, employs around 1,600 workers in Scotland. Unite has hundreds of members at the company’s Kilmalid bottling hall, Strathclyde grain distillery, southern operations and northern operations.

Elaine Dougall, Unite regional coordinating officer, said: “The pay deal will mean our members’ incomes will be protected against any rises in inflation over the next two years.

“It’s disappointing that we had to threaten to hold strike action in order to get Chivas Brothers to make a fair offer to the workforce who have worked non-stop throughout the pandemic. We hope that this deal can reset the relationship with Chivas Brothers so we can avoid the instability of the last few months for the future.”

The industrial action would have affected Chivas’ key Scottish production sites, including maturation facilities in Speyside, Clydebank and Ayrshire.

At the end of May, GMB workers at Chivas Brothers sites in Scotland implemented a ban on overtime in response to the company’s pay freeze offer.

“GMB told Chivas that workers across Scotland couldn’t be the poor relations of the Pernod Ricard family, not after their continuous production throughout this Covid-19 pandemic,” said GMB Scotland organiser Keir Greenaway.

“Chivas have listened to the workers’ voice and our members have now voted to accept an improved offer on their pay and conditions for the next year.

“This will provide some stability in these uncertain times for our members, but rest assured we will continue to campaign and organise to make work better for them.”

Chivas statement

Jean-Christophe Coutures, chairman and CEO of Chivas Brothers, said the company welcomed the acceptance of its new offer.

He continued: “Despite the unprecedented business challenges we continue to face as we recover from the impact of Covid-19, we have maintained 100% of jobs and pay throughout the pandemic – and even recruited across our Scottish sites.

“Our newly agreed offer – which includes guaranteed pay increases in 2021 and 2022 – means we can now move on from the disruption caused by the dispute and refocus our collective efforts on our recovery from the impact of the pandemic and achieving long-term business success.”

Last week, Unite Scotland accepted a three-year wage increase deal from Diageo, a move described as setting a “benchmark for the drinks industry”.

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