Chivas workers plan December strikes

Trade union Unite has confirmed that more than 500 Chivas Brothers employees in Scotland will go on strike next month.

The move comes after the whisky company failed to improve on its pay increase offer, having announced an ‘eye-watering profit last year’.

Chivas Brothers, the Scotch whisky arm of French conglomerate Pernod Ricard, had proposed a 6.4% increase on workers wages, but following its reported tax profits, staff warned that they would take strike action unless the company made a ‘significant’ improvement on the offer.

In August, Chivas Brothers reported a sales increase of 17%, from July 2022 to June 2023, reaching a 10-year high.

General secretary at Unite, Sharon Graham, commented: “Chivas Brothers has made eye-watering profits and it can easily afford to offer our members a significantly better offer. Its failure to make a fair offer is a classic example of a company putting profits before people.

“Unite does what it says on the trade union tin and always prioritises the jobs, pay and conditions of its members. The workers at Chivas will receive the union’s complete support.”

The strikes will take place from 11-14 December and will see a series of 24-hour stoppages across various Chivas Brothers facilities. In addition, a ban on overtime and short-notice shifts will also be in effect from 11 December.

In October, 97% of Unite members said they would reject the new salary, and in a following ballot – where 60% of the Unite’s membership took part – 91.2% of voters were shown to back the intended strike action.

Unite industrial officer Andrew Brown, added: “Unite has repeatedly warned Chivas Brothers that strike action is inevitable unless the current pay offer was improved. It has not listened to our members and now industrial action is a matter of weeks away.

“The company should be in no doubt that our members are determined to get their fair share of the hundreds of millions in profit Chivas Brothers is coining in.

“The strike action Unite has announced will have a major impact on the company’s ability to supply premier brands over the festive season.”

GMB members to strike

Hundreds of Chivas Brothers employees who are members of trade union GMB Scotland will also go on strike across 21 sites. The strike will be on the same dates and include an overtime ban.  Workers in the Highlands will strike on Tuesday 12 December at sites across the region including the Aberlour, Glenlivet, Strathisla, Glentauchers, Braeval, Miltonduff and Dalmunach distilleries and Keith bonds.

David Hume, GMB Scotland organiser, said: “In the middle of a cost of living crisis and eye-watering inflation, our members are unwilling to accept what is effectively a pay cut when their company is making huge profits and reporting record sales.

“Those profits and those sales are only made possible by the skill, expertise and hard work of our members and they deserve an offer that recognises that.”

The Scotch whisky arm of Pernod Ricard employs around 1,600 members of staff across its Scottish distilleries: Kilmalid, Dalmuir, Beith, Strathclyde, The Glenlivet and Strathisla.

‘No impact’ on orders

A spokesperson from Chivas Brothers commented: “Although we have now been served notice of industrial action, we remain committed to our pay proposal, which – when combined with last year’s increase – would see salaries increase above the CPI [consumer price index] and CPIH inflation average over the last two financial years.

Chivas Brothers also said next month’s strike would have “no impact” on year-end orders.

“While we remain open to constructive dialogue to see this matter reach a fair and reasonable resolution, we have already put in place the necessary measures to ensure our continued business operations, minimising any impact to our customers around the world,” the statement continued.

“Considering the proximity to the festive season, and our business resilience plans, we are confident the planned action will have no impact on end-of-year orders, much of which has already shipped globally.”

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Author: Rupert Hohwieler