Hundreds of whisky workers are set to go on strike during the busy festive period after rejecting a pay offer from Chivas Brothers.
The workers, who are members of the GMB and Unite unions, voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action following a breakdown in negotiations with the company, which is part of the Pernod Ricard group.
The unions said the workers were offered a 1.5% pay rise for 2023, which they described as “insulting” and “derisory” in light of the company’s profits and performance during the pandemic.
Impact on production and supply
The strike will affect 10 sites across Scotland, including bottling plants in Paisley and Dumbarton, and distilleries in Speyside and the Highlands.
The unions said the strike will have a “significant impact” on the production and supply of some of the world’s most popular whisky brands, such as Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s, Glenlivet and Aberlour.
They also warned that the strike could escalate into an indefinite stoppage if the company does not improve its offer.
The unions said they were willing to resume talks with the company, but accused it of “refusing to engage” with them.
Workers’ frustration and anger
Keir Greenaway, GMB Scotland organiser, said: “Our members have sent Chivas Brothers a clear message that they will not be short-changed by a hugely profitable employer that has enjoyed a very successful pandemic.
“Chivas Brothers’ pay offer is insulting and derisory. It’s a slap in the face for a workforce that has gone above and beyond to sustain the success of the business during a global health crisis.
“Our members are frustrated and angry, and they have every right to be. They deserve a fair pay rise that reflects their contribution and protects their living standards.”
Elaine Dougall, Unite regional industrial officer, said: “Unite members have emphatically rejected the derisory pay offer by Chivas Brothers, which is part of the highly profitable Pernod Ricard group.
“The company’s offer falls well below the expectations of our members who have worked throughout the pandemic to ensure that the company’s premium whisky brands are produced and distributed across the world.
“Unite has repeatedly stated that we are open to further discussions, but the company has refused to engage with us in any meaningful way. Unless the company returns to the negotiating table with an improved offer, then strike action will commence in the coming weeks and this will undoubtedly hit the company’s production and supply in the run-up to Christmas.”
Company’s response and position
Chivas Brothers said it was “disappointed” by the outcome of the ballot and urged the unions to reconsider its offer.
A spokesperson for the company said: “We are disappointed by the result of the ballot for industrial action, which relates to the 2023 pay review for a specific group of employees within our manufacturing operations.
“We believe our pay offer of 1.5% is fair and reasonable in the current economic climate, and it is in line with the average pay settlements across the UK this year.
“We have also offered a number of additional benefits, such as enhanced sick pay and maternity pay, and increased flexibility for our employees.
“We remain open to dialogue with our union partners and we urge them to reconsider our offer, which we believe is in the best interests of our employees and our business.”