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Strike action could dampen Chivas Brothers’ Christmas spirit

Unite members working for Pernod Ricard-owned Chivas Brothers in Scotland are being balloted on strike action which could hit Scotch whisky supplies ahead of the festive period.

Chivas Brothers oversees several well-known Scotch whisky brands, including Chivas Regal, The Glenlivet and Royal Salute. It employs around 1,500 workers across Scotland, with most of its distilleries located in Speyside, though it also has one on Orkney and another in Glasgow. Unite is the main union for its employees.

On 17 October, Unite warned Chivas Brothers that it would ballot its members over industrial action after 97% of the membership rejected a 6.4% pay rise offer from the distillery giant. Chivas Brothers’ strong sales performance has been cited by Unite officials as another reason to give workers a pay rise.

Unite industrial officer Andrew Brown said: “Unite’s hundreds of members at Chivas Brothers deserve to taste some of the £168.5 million profit. The company also recently announced a ten-year sales high. Yet, there is a pay offer on the table which represents a real terms pay cut, which is totally unacceptable.”

The ballot to strike opened today (30 October) and closes on 20 November. Brown said that if the strike is voted for, it would “leave management with a terrible festive hangover entirely of their own-making”.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Strike action at Chivas Brothers is a step closer following the failure of the company to make our members a fair pay offer. Any strike action involving hundreds of Unite members will undoubtedly hit hard the supplies of the company’s premier whisky brands over the festive season.”

A Chivas Brothers spokesperson has responded to the threat of the strike: “We’re disappointed that employees covered by a bargaining agreement are being balloted for potential industrial action. However, we maintain our position and firm belief that our offer strikes the right balance between ensuring our salaries remain highly competitive in the context of a normalising business environment, while enabling us to build a successful and sustainable future for Chivas Brothers and its people, for the long term.”

“As a business we have always sought to share our success with our teammates at every level across the organisation. We have, and will continue to, reward our people competitively, while responsibly managing our business for the years ahead. In real terms, if taken together with last year’s pay agreement, our current offer puts our proposed increase above the CPI and CPIH inflation averages seen over our last two financial years,” it continued.

“Our recent investments in distillery expansions and decarbonisation, site safety and our communities across Scotland further demonstrate our dedication to our people and their futures. We sincerely hope that any industrial action can be avoided, but are confident that we can put in place the necessary measures to minimise the impact of any disruption on our business and our customers around the world,” the spokesperson concluded.

According to Chivas Brothers, its products are consumed in 150 countries.

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