Diageo workers to hold nine days of strike action

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Diageo faces two weeks of strike action from GMB members in Scotland
Diageo faces two weeks of strike action from GMB members in Scotland

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A rolling programme of strike action planned by the GMB Union is to hit Diageo this month, following a collapse in pay talks.

GMB has scheduled the strike to begin on Tuesday 17 September and run until Friday 27 September, at 19 sites across Scotland. The union claimed this would seriously impact production of staple brands such as Johnnie Walker, Gordon’s and Smirnoff.

Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) talks collapsed last Friday (30 August), after Diageo refused to improve the previously rejected pay offer – a 2.8% increase in pay for all staff across its Scottish operations.

The producer’s reluctance to increase the offer followed recently filed accounts that revealed pre-tax profits of more than £4.2bn and a 30% pay increase for chief executive Ivan Menezes, which took his total pay to £11.7m.

Keir Greenaway, GMB Scotland organiser, said the strike action was a consequence of Diageo’s “insatiable corporate greed” ​within the hierarchy of the company.

‘Built on the back of Scotland’

“A huge chunk of Diageo’s credibility and success is built on the back of Scotland and the working class and rural communities that distil, mature, store and bottle their lucrative range of whiskies and white spirits,” ​said Greenaway.

“It begs the question: Why has the company spent months low-balling unions with pay offers that fail to tackle the cost of living? If any business can afford to make work pay for its employees, it is Diageo.”

He accused Menezes and Diageo’s shareholders of carving up the company’s profits and “while workers in Scotland get thrown scraps from the fat cats’ table”.

“It’s just not credible and we aren’t going to leave this unchallenged,”​ Greenaway added. “Diageo must get real on pay or they will be hit with a sustained wave of strike action, affecting many of their most profitable brands.”

Last month, 80.5% of GMB’s near 1,000 members supported moving to strike action in response to the breakdown in pay talks.

Contingency plans

In response to the planned strikes, a Diageo spokesman said: “We are a very good employer and remain committed to seeking a resolution and ensuring our employees receive an increase on their pay, alongside maintaining the competitiveness of our operations. We have well-developed contingency plans in the event of industrial action.”

Meanwhile, last month, Diageo has ramped up its start-up support programme by acquiring a majority stake in Seedlip​, the “world’s first”​ distilled non-alcoholic spirit.

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