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Diageo workers plan protests in Scotland

Engineers at Diageo’s Leven plant in Scotland are planning to hold a protest outside the Johnnie Walker Princes Street visitor experience this weekend over a pay dispute.

Johnnie Walker Princes Street in Edinburgh, Scotland
Diageo opened Johnnie Walker Princes Street in Edinburgh, Scotland, in September 2021

Ten Diageo engineers at the firm’s Leven bottling plant in Scotland kicked off a series of 48-hour strikes in January. The latest industrial action was held from 3-6 February with further strikes planned for every weekend until 3 April.

According to trade union Unite, Diageo will change the current shift pattern for engineers at its Leven plant in Fife, which will in effect bring other workers down to a new starter rate.

The trade union estimates some of Diageo’s engineers could lose around 6% of their pay when moved to the lower rate of pay.

This was done without consultation from the unions, Unite said, with the concern first raised in 2019.

Unite said it would not be safe to run the plant without the support the engineers provide.

Members of the union are planning to hold a protest this Saturday (11 February) from 12pm outside Diageo’s Johnnie Walker Princes Street experience in Edinburgh.

Unite industrial officer Bob Macgregor said: “The workers keep the bottling plant safe and literally keep the drinks flowing. They will be taking their fight to the Johnnie Walker experience next Saturday (11 February) so that the people of Edinburgh and all visitors to the centre get to understand what kind of experience the company is giving its workforce.”

A second protest will be held outside Diageo’s Leven facility on 12 February from 12pm.

Unite highlighted that Diageo recorded an operating profit increase of 18.2% to £4.4 billion (US$5.3bn) for the year ending July 2022, with net sales up by 21.4%.

Smirnoff owner Diageo has an estimated 27,987 employees, which equates to a profit of around £157,000 (US$189,268) being generated by every worker, Unite said.

‘Corporate greed’

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham added: “Unite’s engineering members at Diageo’s Leven plant have had enough of pay cuts especially as the company’s profits are soaring.

“Diageo recorded £4.4bn in profits – up nearly 20% – directly on the back of our members’ hard work. Yet some of our members are now facing considerable pay cuts when inflation has hit a 45-year high.

“This is totally unacceptable and we will stand with our members in their fight against corporate greed at Diageo.”

A Diageo spokesperson said: “We are proud of the pay and benefits packages we provide. We have a very small number of employees taking industrial action over weekend night-shift requirements.

“Our Leven site continues to operate safely and as normal, and we remain committed to seeking a resolution to this dispute.”

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