PRODUCTION of some of Scotland’s most famous whisky faces major disruption after unions announced a series of strikes in a dispute over pay.

GMB Scotland said a "rolling programme of action" would run from 17 to 27 September, hitting all Diageo bottling, maturation and distillery operations across Scotland.

Unite has also announced strike action dates at the company's Leven, Cameron Bridge and Shieldhall sites over the same dates.

Unite regional industrial officer Bob McGregor told the Herald in July that production within the Johnnie Walker maker in Scotland "would come to a standstill" if a strike was called.

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Both the Unite union, who have 500 members amongst the 3500 Scottish workforce and GMB which has over 1000 both held consultative ballots in July in which 95 per cent rejected the company’s "derisory" 2.5% pay offer following weeks of negotiation.

Staff anger as Diageo announced a 3.7% rise in operating profits to £3.7 billion and is ploughing millions into a flagship Johnnie Walker visitor attraction in Princes Street, Edinburgh, as part of a £150 million investment in Scottish Whisky tourism.

The move by the unions follows the breakdown of talks over pay at arbitration service Acas on Friday.

Both unions said their members had rejected a 2.8% "final offer" for staff in Scotland.

The spirits group which produces nearly 40 Scotch whiskies including Johnnie Walker, Bell's, Black & White, J&B, Singleton, Cardhu, Lagavulin, Oban and Talisker had seen its share price rise by more than 20% since the start of the year on the back of strong gin and whisky sales.

GMB Scotland Organiser Keir Greenaway said: “Strike action across Diageo’s Scottish operations is a consequence of the insatiable corporate greed within the hierarchy of this company.

“Our campaign for a pay deal that beats the cost of living for our members and their families is a modest proposal against the backdrop of Diageo’s absolutely staggering financial results, which workers in Scotland have more than helped to deliver.

“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.

“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.


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“A rising tide should lift all boats but instead we have to suffer the grotesque spectacle of Ivan Menezes and his shareholders carving-up the spoils 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. 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.”

Unite regional industrial officer Bob MacGregor said: “Diageo has made minimal effort to resolve this dispute through negotiations, which is the central reason why talks broke down at Acas last week. Unite entered those talks with our sole objective being to achieve a fair pay award for the workforce and in doing so to avert strike action. Remember, this is a giant in the drinks industry which just announced an increase in pre-tax profits of £4.2 billion.”

“Unite warned weeks ago that unless Diageo made a fair offer then our membership would take strike action. We have now reached that point. The door always remains open to further negotiations but strike action is now imminent.”


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."

Diageo, whose heritage in Scotland dates back to 1627 when the Haig family first started distilling is Scotland’s largest exporter of Scotch whisky and other spirits, with around 85% of the company’s production in Scotland exported overseas to over 180 countries.

It has 50 sites in Scotland including 28 malt distilleries and one grain distillery, as well as engineering, technical, warehousing, packaging operations and various management functions.