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Drinks industry workers: Minimum price hike will cost jobs

Monday, December 4, 2023

Drinks workers: Don’t increase minimum unit price of alcohol, scrap it

Workers in Scotland’s drinks industry fear a proposed increase to the price of alcohol will risk jobs while doing nothing to protect problem drinkers, according to a poll.

GMB Scotland, the biggest union in the sector, surveyed members on the Scottish Government’s proposal to increase the Minimum Unit Price (MUP) of alcohol from 50p to 65p.

In response, most workers in the industry (64%) said the MUP should be scrapped entirely while almost a third (32%) do not believe it should increase.

The workers across the brewing, whisky and spirits sector fear the MUP has already led to lower pay and reduced investment in an industry crucial to Scotland’s economy.

One distillery worker told researchers: “Increasing the minimum unit price will only have a detrimental effect on one of the Scotland’s success stories.

“Why is the government intent on penalising a sector that employs thousands of people across the country?”

GMB Scotland, responding to a government consultation on the proposals, said minimum unit pricing increased the cost of the cheapest drinks and is effectively a tax on the poorest Scots.

It said an MUP of 65 pence would be 30% higher than when it was introduced while wages, when adjusted for inflation, have only increased by 1.14% in the same period.

The union also highlighted opinion polls revealing falling public support for minimum unit pricing and official statistics suggesting alcohol-related deaths have increased year-on-year.

Another drinks industry worker taking part in the survey told the union: “Minimum pricing has not worked. It has only increased the profits of the supermarkets and off licences that sell alcohol.

“If the government had not wanted to make a difference, the extra tax should have been used to fund more alcohol awareness centres and treatment facilities.

David Hume, GMB Scotland organiser in the drinks industry, said: “There is simply no case for continuing to impose a minimum unit price on alcohol never mind increasing it.

“The jury is out on the policy’s impact on Scotland’s drinking but alcohol-related deaths are rising and there is no evidence to suggest it is helping protect problem drinkers.

“The actual impact of minimum pricing is at best questionable and ministers should be asking those questions instead of doubling down by increasing it.

“Meanwhile, workers in the drinks industry, our members, report pay being squeezed and a chill on investment that will risk growth and jobs in one of Scotland’s most important sectors.

“Instead of pursuing policies that undermine this crucial industry, ministers should bolster it with an industrial strategy capable of improving skills and pay and boosting investment.”