Staff at the Scottish operations of drinks firm Diageo are to go on strike after pay talks with the company broke down, risking disruption to the production of Johnnie Walker whisky, Gordon’s gin and Smirnoff vodka.
Trade union officials accused Diageo of “insatiable corporate greed” after serving notice of strikes on the company, which declined to improve on a final offer of a 2.8% pay rise for workers in Scotland.
Of the 1,000 Diageo staff represented by the GMB union in Scotland, more than 80% had voted to strike unless the company improved its terms.
GMB Scotland said it expected Diageo’s bottling, maturing and distillery sites to be severely affected as a result of a rolling 10-day programme of walkouts that will run from 17-27 September.
Affected sites including the Talisker, Royal Lochnagar and Blair Athol distilleries as well as the Cameronbridge and Leven plants in Fife and another in Shieldhall near Glasgow.
But sources close to Diageo indicated they expected business to continue as usual because only about a third of its 3,000 staff in Scotland are unionised.
The GMB’s Scotland organiser, Keir Greenaway, said: “Strike action across Diageo’s Scottish operations is a consequence of the insatiable corporate greed within the hierarchy of this company.
“Our campaign for a pay deal that beats the cost of living for our members and their families is a modest proposal against the backdrop of Diageo’s absolutely staggering financial results, which workers in Scotland have more than helped to deliver.”
The GMB pointed to Diageo’s pretax profits of more than £4.2bn, a share buyback plan worth £4.5bn to investors and a 30% pay rise for the chief executive, Ivan Menezes, which took his annual remuneration to £11.7m.
“A huge chunk of Diageo’s credibility and success is built on the back of Scotland and the working-class and rural communities that distil, mature, store and bottle their lucrative range of whiskies and white spirits,” said Greenaway.
“If any business can afford to make work pay for its employees it is Diageo.
“A rising tide should lift all boats but instead we have to suffer the grotesque spectacle of [chief executive] Ivan Menezes and his shareholders carving up the spoils while workers in Scotland get thrown scraps from the fat cats’ table.
“It’s just not credible and we aren’t going to leave this unchallenged. Diageo must get real on pay or they will be hit with a sustained wave of strike action affecting many of their most profitable brands.”
A spokesperson for Diageo said: “We have well-developed contingency plans in the event of industrial action.
“We are a very good employer and remain committed to seeking a resolution and ensuring our employees receive an increase on their pay, alongside maintaining the competitiveness of our operations.”