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Staff cull imminent at Whyte & Mackay

Up to 100 jobs are set to go at Whyte & Mackay after the Glasgow-based spirits company announced a major review of its operations.

85 jobs could go in Scotland, while a further 15 sales staff based outside Scotland also potentially face the axe.

The company, which has 574 employees, has entered into formal consultation for the next month to review its options and look at ways of minimising the number of compulsory redundancies, according to a company statement.

The company has held meetings over the last week with the relevant Scottish government ministers and officials, including the First Minister Alex Salmond.

Opposition parties, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Development International, and Highland and Islands Enterprise have also been briefed on the situation.

Chief executive John Beard said: “It is with regret that I have to announce this review and the planned job losses.

“It will come as no surprise to anybody that a combination of the worldwide economic situation and the punitive UK legislative climate means that only the fittest alcoholic drink companies will survive.

“For Whyte & Mackay this means taking the painful decision to review our structures and costs.”

Beard added: “I can confirm that whilst this impacts all of our seven Scottish locations there will be no site closure as a consequence of this decision.

“My priority over the coming days and weeks is to help and assist our staff. We have sought the assistance of PACE (Partnership Action for Continuing Employment) to provide professional support as necessary.

“We are hopeful that this difficult decision will ensure Whyte & Mackay has a sustainable future going forward, leaving us in a strong position to grow when the UK and global economy improves.”

Beard went on to point the finger squarely at the government, with the UK’s "punitive" tax levels forcing the company into the restructuring plan.

He said: "The key driver is the combination of commercial reality and the economic environment.

"Certainly the state of the worldwide economy is pretty clear. But in the UK, we are confronted as an industry with a very punitive tax regime.

"Specifically in 2008, the excise duty rise was 13 per cent for whisky."

He said Whyte & Mackay had been hit harder than most as the company is more geared to the UK market than other drinks firms and warned that further tax hikes may cost more jobs.

According to the Scotch Whisky Association, the average price of a 70cl bottle of whisky is £10.35, of which £7.69 goes to the taxman.

Alan Lodge, 05.08.2009

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