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Ballots back strike action at Speyside distilleries

GMB members at Chivas Brothers have voted to take industrial action
GMB members at Chivas Brothers have voted to take industrial action

Union members at one of Speyside’s major whisky producers have voted in support of industrial action over a pay freeze imposed by its French owners.

GMB Scotland and Unite Scotland held ballots after talks with Chivas Brothers, through conciliation service Acas, collapsed.

The GMB said 84.4% of its members had backed calls for a strike and 92.7% supported action short of a walk-out.  It added that industrial action, affecting all the company’s Scottish operations, from distilling to bottling, could start before the end of this month.

Among Unite Scotland members there was an 82% vote in favour of strike action.

Last month the GMB accused the firm’s owners, Paris-based international wines and spirits giant Pernod Ricard, of “corporate greed” after it awarded wage rises to workers in France earlier this year.

Makers of Chivas Regal, one of the world’s best-selling Scotch blends, Chivas Brothers owns 11 malt whisky distilleries in Moray, one near Grantown and another in Kirkwall, in Orkney.

The Glasgow-based company, which produces the Glenlivet and Aberlour single malts and employs around 1,600 people in Scotland, has a bond operation in Keith, where casks are filled, and more than 80 whisky warehouses near the Moray town.

GMB Scotland organiser, Keir Greenway, said: “You can’t build an economic recovery on pay cuts in Scotland’s highly lucrative whisky and spirits sector; there is no ‘levelling up’ or ‘fair work’ agenda here for workers in communities like West Dunbartonshire and Speyside.

“GMB members have sent a clear message that they are prepared to take industrial action to secure better value for their hard work and sacrifice over the last 14 months and the ball is back in the employer’s court to return with an improved offer.”

Elaine Dougall, Unite’s regional co-ordinating officer, said: “Unite’s members at Chivas Brothers have emphatically backed industrial action. This result comes after months of trying to negotiate a fair pay award for workers, but throughout this whole time the company have barely moved and inch.”

She added: “Unite is asking that Chivas Brothers use this result as an opportunity to make an improved offer or industrial action will take place in a matter of weeks, just as the  country is easing restrictions on access to pubs and restaurants.”

Jean-Christophe Coutures, chief executive of Chivas Brothers

Chivas Brothers chief executive, Jean-Christophe Coutures, said the company was “deeply disappointed” by the ballot results.

He continued: “We maintain that our proposal to our unions – which included guaranteed pay increases in 2021 and 2022 – is fair, and recognises the hard work of our teams whilst responsibly managing our business for the years ahead.

“Despite the result of this vote, we remain committed to seeking a resolution that focuses our collective efforts on achieving long-term business success, job security and growth.”

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