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Christmas strikes loom at whisky giant

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Christmas strikes loom at whisky giant after GMB Scotland members back action

Workers at whisky giant Chivas Brothers have overwhelmingly backed strike action after pay talks collapsed.

Around 800 members of GMB Scotland and sister unions will walk out after a formal ballot revealed widespread support for industrial action.

The union warns strikes in December could disrupt orders to shops, hotels and bars over the festive period with workers preparing to strike in bottling halls in the weeks running up to Christmas.

The action comes after the company behind global brands including Chivas Regal, Glenlivet, Ballantine's and Royal Salute refused to revise a pay offer of 6.4% despite surging sales.

GMB Scotland revealed the results of the strike ballot today with 89% support for action while an earlier consultative vote also revealed overwhelming levels of support.

David Hume, GMB Scotland organiser, said the ballot results only confirmed the anger and determination of workers to secure a better offer when Chivas and French parent company, Pernod Ricard, are recording unprecedented sales around the world.

The Ricard family, owners of the multinational which produces other well-known brands including Absolut vodka, Martell cognac, and Mumm champagne, is worth an estimated £5.8billion.

Hume said: “After a year when household bills rose again and again our members have made clear they will not accept a pay rise that is, in reality, a pay cut.

“It would be unacceptable at any time but the company’s owners celebrating some of the highest ever sales only add insult to injury.

“Huge profits are built on the shoulders of our members and they deserve to be paid fairly and receive an offer that recognises the value of their work.”

Chivas employs around 1,600 workers in Scotland, including at the Kilmalid bottling hall, in Dumbarton, Strathclyde Grain Distillery, Glenlivet Distillery and maturation sites and distilleries in Speyside, Clydebank and Ayrshire.

The company will now be given two weeks’ notice of strike dates just months after reporting a 17% increase in net sales, taking total sales to a 10-year high with sales surging by 30% in international markets including India, China and Japan.

Meanwhile, it emerged Scotch accounted for more than a fifth of the parent company’s sales last year which rose by 10% to £10.5 billion.