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Strike threat lifted at Speyside distilleries as whisky workers agree pay deal

Chivas Brothers produces well-know single malts, including The Glenlivet.
Chivas Brothers produces well-know single malts, including The Glenlivet.

A threat of strikes at Speyside distilleries has been lifted, after union members voted to accept a new pay offer.

The agreement brings to an end months of dispute at major whisky producer Chivas Brothers, where owners Pernod Ricard had attempted to impose a wage freeze, having given workers in France rises.

Following ballots, members of the GMB Scotland and Unite Scotland unions at the firm have accepted a 2.5% per cent increase on their basic rate of pay this year.

They will also get a minimum of 2% more, or a rise in line with the consumer price index (CPIH), in 2022.

Industrial action, including strikes, had been threatened by the unions last month, after talks, through conciliation service Acas, collapsed.

Agreement offers ‘some stability’

GMB Scotland Organiser Keir Greenaway said: “GMB told Chivas that workers across Scotland couldn’t be the poor relations of the Pernod Ricard family, not after their continuous production throughout this Covid-19 pandemic.

“Chivas have listened to the workers’ voice and our members have now voted to accept an improved offer on their pay and conditions for the next year.

“This will provide some stability in these uncertain times for our members, but rest assured we will continue to campaign and organise to make work better for them.”

Unite Scotland’s regional co-ordinating officer, Elaine Dougall, added: “The pay deal will mean our members’ incomes will be protected against any rises in inflation over the next two years.

It’s disappointing that we had to threaten to hold strike action in order to get Chivas Brothers to make a fair offer to the workforce who have worked non stop throughout the pandemic.

“We hope that this deal can reset the relationship with Chivas Brothers so we can avoid the instability of the last few months for the future.”

Chivas Regal is one of the world’s best-selling blended Scotch brands.

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 on 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.

The business has been owned by Paris-based drinks giant Pernod Ricard since 2001.

Chivas Brothers chairman and chief executive Jean-Christophe Coutures.

Chivas Brothers chairman and chief executive, Jean-Christophe Coutures, said:  “We welcome the collective acceptance of our revised pay proposal following the latest ballot vote with Unite Scotland and GMB members.

Despite the unprecedented business challenges we continue to face as we recover from the impact of Covid-19, we have maintained 100% of jobs and pay throughout the pandemic – and even recruited across our Scottish sites.”

He added: “Our newly-agreed offer – which includes guaranteed pay increases in 2021 and 2022 – means we can now move on from the disruption caused by the dispute and refocus our collective efforts on our recovery from the impact of the pandemic and achieving long-term business success.”

Earlier this week, the GMB and Unite announced their members at the world’s biggest Scotch whisky producer, Diageo, had voted to accept a three-year pay deal.

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