Employees of Chivas Brothers in Scotland will be balloted for strike action after Unite members voted to reject a pay freeze.
Members of Scotland’s largest union, Unite, voted by 91% to refuse a pay freeze in a consultative ballot after a ‘breakdown in talks’.
Unite said the decision to reject the pay freeze was made as a number of major drinks firms, including William Grant & Sons, Edrington and Diageo, offered substantial pay increases to their employees.
Chivas Brothers, the Scotch whisky arm of French firm Pernod Ricard, employs around 1,600 workers in Scotland. Unite did not say how many Chivas Brothers workers are members of Unite, but it is confirmed to be in the hundreds.
Elaine Dougall, Unite regional coordinating officer, said: “Unite’s members at Chivas Brothers are absolutely furious at the pay freeze being offered by the company and have demonstrated this through rejecting it by 91%.
“Other players in the industry are offering significant pay rises whereas Chivas Brothers workers who have continued to work throughout the Covid pandemic and continued to boost the profits of the company are being offered nothing. It’s completely unacceptable.”
Unite pointed to Chivas Brothers’ financial results in 2019, which saw the firm make a pre-tax profit of £539 million (US$733m) last year, a 22% increase from £442m (US$601m) in 2018. In full-year 2020, Chivas Brothers’ organic sales declined by 11% due to the pandemic.
Unite said it would now move to ballot its members for strike action, which could affect Chivas Brothers’ Kilmalid site, Strathclyde grain distillery, and southern and northern operations.
Dougall added: “We will continue to press hard for a fair pay offer but all options are now on the table. Chivas Brothers have an opportunity to do the right thing or they will face an escalating dispute unnecessarily created by their arrogance.”
Jean-Christophe Coutures, Chivas Brothers’ chairman and CEO, said: “We deeply value the hard work and commitment of our teams during this crisis, and we are proud that we have been able to navigate these unprecedented times while maintaining 100% of jobs and salaries.
“We have maintained an open dialogue with union representatives throughout this process and have found ways to reward our teams that we believe are appropriate in the current climate, and allow us to responsibly manage our business for the year ahead.”
In 2017, workers at Chivas Brothers’ Kilmalid production site in Dumbarton went on strike in response to a pay offer from the company.
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Author: Nicola Carruthers