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Chivas Brothers braced for Christmas strike headache

Unite members working for Pernod Ricard-owned Chivas Brothers in Scotland have voted in favour of going on strike in a move that could disrupt whisky supplies over the festive period.

From 30 October Unite members at Chivas Brothers’ Dalmuir, Beith, Strathclyde Grain and Strathisla distilleries, and Dumbuck warehouse facility were balloted on whether or not to take strike action over a pay dispute.

91.2% of Unite members who voted supported the strikes.

Unite industrial officer Andrew Brown, who when the ballot opened said that strikes would leave the Chivas Regal, The Glenlivet and Royal Salute producer with “a terrible festive hangover”, said in response to the vote to strike: “Chivas Brothers are forcing hundreds of our members to choose between a real terms pay cut and strike action. The company are doing this while amassing a fortune of dizzying heights on the backs of our members’ hard work.”

“Chivas Brothers have a final opportunity to give our members some well-deserved festive cheer or supplies of the company’s premier brands at one of the busiest times of the year will be hit hard,” Brown added.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham added: “Strike action at Chivas Brothers is inevitable unless the current pay offer is improved. Chivas made an eye-watering profit last year, and it can easily afford to offer our members a significantly better offer.”

On 17 October, Unite warned Chivas Brothers that it would ballot its members over industrial action after 97% of the membership rejected the offer of a 6.4% pay rise.

Chivas Brothers made a profit of £168.5 million last year. In the six months to the end of June 2023 the company also recorded a 17% increase in net sales.

A spokesperson for Chivas Brothers said in response to the news of the vote: “We’re disappointed that a slight majority (59.6%) of total employees represented by Unite have voted for strike action. As a business, we firmly believe that our pay proposal strikes the right balance in ensuring salaries remain highly competitive in the context of a normalising business and economic environment, as further indicated by this month’s drop in inflation. Our current offer, combined with last year’s increase would see salaries increase above the CPI and CPIH inflation averages seen over our last two financial years.”

“We remain committed to our proposal and open to continued dialogue to see this matter reach a resolution,” the statement continued. “Should industrial action go ahead, we are prepared to put in place the necessary measures to ensure our continued business operations, minimising any impact to our customers around the world. As our end-of-year orders have already shipped, we are confident this ballot result will have no impact on the festive season.”

When the ballot was announced, Chivas Brothers stated it has “the necessary measures to minimise the impact of any disruption on our business and our customers around the world”.

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