Drinks giant Diageo is being threatened with strikes in the run up to Christmas after workers voted for industrial action over cuts to their pensions.
Members of the GMB and Unite unions in Diageo’s Scottish operations, including distilleries and bottling plants, strongly backed walkouts and other forms of industrial action.
Last night the company described the unions’ threats as “disappointing and premature.”
The GMB said that despite “significant” growth, Diageo is targeting savings of £30million-a-year from its workers’ pensions by closing its final salary scheme and also a so-called “lifestyle” plan to new entrants.
Members of the union at Diageo backed walkouts by 63% and other forms of industrial action by 69.7%.
GMB Scotland organiser Louise Gilmour said: “Our members have sent a strong message to Diageo that the company needs to think again if it wants to avoid damaging strikes across Scotland.
“Diageo is happy to significantly increase executive pay in the wake of billions of pounds of profit but they won’t protect the pensions of the workforce who have contributed massively towards the success of the business.”
Members of Unite voted 82% in favour of industrial action short of a strike and 77% in favour of strike action.
The union’s regional officer Pat McIlvogue said: “We are proud of our members, who have sent a clear message to Diageo that they must keep their pension promises.
“No-one takes industrial action lightly – especially with Christmas coming up – but Diageo is behaving like Scrooge.”
Diageo said it has been engaged with employees in a consultative review of its UK final salary pension scheme (DPS) since February. The process, it said, involved detailed discussions on the future of the scheme and employee pension priorities as well as a proposal for change. The company and unions recently concluded discussions at ACAS which resulted in an alternative proposal for change.
In a statement on the possible strike action the company said: “This is clearly disappointing and the company feels premature whilst we were in ongoing discussions. The company and employees are in a consultative process and have not yet moved into consultation on the alternative proposal. It is also far from the positive industrial relations of past decades that the company has had with its employees and which has helped build the reputation our supply business has today.
“If and when strike action is taken the company will focus on ensuring that our business continues as usual as far as possible. Strong plans are in place for this while we seek to move back into dialogue on the DPS.”