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Dalmore and Invergordon face strike action

Workers at Whyte & Mackay’s Dalmore and Invergordon distilleries could be set to strike after rejecting an ‘insulting’ pay offer.

The Dalmore distillery
The Dalmore distillery is located in Alness, Scotland, on the banks of the Cromarty Firth

GMB Scotland workers at the two Highland distilleries were offered a pay rise of between 5% and 6%, with 94% of members voting against the wage offer in a ballot.

The trade union said the pay offer was ‘an insult’ as Whyte & Mackay has made ‘record profits’ and is expanding its operations.

GMB believes the company has enough money to provide a double-digit rise in earnings for its workers.

Whyte & Mackay, the Scotch whisky arm of Philippine-based Emperador, recorded pre-tax profits of £81.3 million (US$103m) in 2022, with a 20% increase in pay for its workers costing around £6.6m (US$8.3m), GMB highlighted.

Lesley-Anne MacAskill, GMB Scotland organiser in the Highlands, said: “It is clear from the result of this ballot that our members are absolutely united in rejecting this offer and determined to take whatever industrial action is necessary to secure a fair pay rise from a company making record profits.”

The trade union also noted that shareholders in Whyte & MacKay received almost £53m (US$67m) in dividends between 2019 and 2022 while the highest-paid director earned £710,000 (US$896,000) in 2022 – 11 times more than the average salary in the company.

GMB said Whyte & Mackay had spent thousands of pounds on installing large murals at grain distillery Invergordon, describing it as a ‘vanity project’ as some of the company’s employees are turning to food banks.

“While managers are celebrating this great commercial success, our members are struggling to make ends meet during an unprecedented cost-of-living crisis while being paid less than whisky workers elsewhere,” MacAskill added.

“It cannot go on and managers must understand the strength of feeling of our members and their determination to have the value of their work properly recognised and secure a fair pay offer.”

A spokesperson for Whyte & Mackay said: “We can confirm that pay negotiations are in progress with our trade union partners. Our last proposal has been rejected and negotiations continue.”

Whyte & Mackay also operates Scotch whisky distilleries Fettercairn in Kincardineshire, Tamnavulin in Speyside, and Jura on the Hebridean island.

Emperador is planning to invest US$125m into expanding its Scotch whisky and brandy production, with upgrades in the pipeline for all five of its Scottish sites.

The company revealed extension plans at Invergordon last year, following similar plans at single malt distillery The Dalmore the year before.

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