Unite the union has today taken the step of writing to Diageo senior management requesting a halt in production at its bottling and distilling operations in Scotland.

The union said the move was "in light of workplace safety concerns and rising levels of stress". 

Diageo has a number of distilleries and bottling operations across the country including its Leven, Cameron Bridge and Shieldhall plants, which have remained opened on the basis of providing goods and essential services.

The company’s brands include Smirnoff, Bailey’s, Johnnie Walker, Guinness, Tanqueray and Gordon's gin.

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Unite workplace representatives have been reporting that despite the company adhering to government social distancing measures there remain ongoing safety concerns including the communal use of workplace canteens and toilets with up to 200 workers based at some plants.

Unite representatives are also reporting rising levels of stress and anxiety with hundreds of workers being in close proximity to each other for up to eight hours a day.  

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Bob MacGregor, Unite regional industrial officer, said; “Diageo workers are demanding that the company halt production at its plants across Scotland due to the mountain of safety concerns being raised by the workforce.

"Unite fully understands that the food and drink sector are essential services but if the safety concerns can't be addressed then production must stop.

"Safety must come first. The reality is that hundreds of people are working beside each other for hours a day, and then travelling home often on public transport to their families. The workforce are asking Diageo to do the right thing and halt production.”   

A Diageo spokesman said: “We would never ask any employee to work in an environment that we believe is not safe for them to do so, nor would we operate any site unless it is responsible and appropriate to do so.

"We again met with Bob MacGregor from Unite today and will now ask him to share as a matter of urgency any and all examples where he believes our strict safety protocols, which go beyond government guidelines, are not being adhered to so if proven can be resolved immediately."

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He added: “We have stringent safety protocols in place across all sites, including heightened sanitation measures, restriction of movement to and from our sites, and all employees who can work from home are doing so.

"We have fundamentally changed the way we work across all sites and scaled back production in many areas. This includes stopping some activities altogether, reducing output rates and changing shift patterns to ensure all our strict social distancing measures are fully enforced in all areas of our sites."

The spokesman also said: "All employees have been clearly briefed on the protocols and we have actively engaged with our trade union partners to ask them to work with us to ensure they are fully enforced at all times.

“We are complying with the latest guidance set out by the UK and Scottish Governments. The UK Government has reaffirmed that food and beverage production and retail, including alcohol, are essential services and that the production and supply of alcohol to the public should continue, where appropriate safety protocols are in place.

"The health and well-being of our employees remains our number one priority.”