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Unions ballot Diageo workers on potential strike action in pay dispute

Diageo is facing a potential strike from staff that could affect production at its Scottish sites over the summer and autumn, after talks broke down with trade unions in a long running pay dispute.

Yesterday members of trade union GMB and Scottish Unite rejected Diageo’s improved pay offer of 2.8%, for its 1,500 Diageo members, arguing that this would see its members worse off than in real terms.

Around 94% of members rejected Diageo’s previous pay offer of 2.5%, GMB said as they pushed the spirits giant for a payrise above the Retail Price Index rate (which is currently 3.1%).

Following the meeting, the two unions will ballot members on whether to strike, with the ballot running from next Monday, July 29 to Friday, August 16.

Should workers vote in favour of strike action, a walkout at dozens of Diageo’s bottling and maturation sites and distilleries in Scotland, including Cameron Bridge, the largest grain distillery in Europe, its bottling hall at Leven and Shieldhall, the world’s largest whisky packaging site, could disrupt operations across Diageo’s brands.

GMB Scotland Organiser Keir Greenaway said if anyone could afford to reward their employees with a wage rise that beat the rising cost of living, it was Diageo, who today reported that operating profit rose 10% to £4.04bn on sales of £12.87 billion, boosted by the boom in gin sales and its Game of Thrones inspired whisky, “White Walker by Johnnie Walker”, in collaboration with HBO.

“They need to come back with an offer that reflects the value the workers bring to the business, and shows them the respect they deserve,” the Scotsman reported him as saying.

A Diageo spokesman told Reuters that despite improving its offer, the unions did not move from their position to enable meaningful discussions to take place.

“We remain committed to seeking a resolution and ensuring our employees receive an increase on their pay,” she said.

The spokesman also told Reuters that the company had “well-developed contingency plans in place in the event of any strike action”.


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