Unite threatens Edrington with strike action

Trade union Unite has followed GMB in balloting Edrington workers in Glasgow for industrial action over a pay dispute.

More than 40 Unite members at Edrington’s global supply centre on Glasgow’s Great Western Road will be balloted for industrial action from 1 March to 22 March.

The dispute is over new shift patterns and associated pay introduced in January 2023 for engineers, electricians and boilermen.

The move by Unite came just days after GMB announced it would ballot more than 600 Edrington workers across both the Glasgow site and The Macallan distillery in Speyside.

Unite employees at Edrington are calling for a 5% higher shift allowance for unsociable hours for the early shift and back shift in line with other unionised distillery plants.

The union said the shift pattern changes has meant some workers are starting earlier at 5.30am instead of 7am, with similar time changes for the back shift.

Unite said strike action could bring production to a halt at Edrington’s Glasgow site in Drumchapel, as it would be deemed unsafe to run.

‘Second-class workers’

Scottish spirits firm Edrington saw its revenue soar by 45% to £821.2 million (US$988.8m) for the year ending 31 March 2022.

Unite industrial officer Graham McNab added: “The strike ballot at Edrington Distillers in Drumchapel is a reflection of the anger that our members feel at being treated as second-class workers in the drinks industry.

“Other well-known distillers are paying the shift allowance rates our members are looking for as a given without the threat of industrial action.

“The company has no issue boosting the wallets of their directors which has increased by over three times in a year up to £5.8m, so why don’t they pay their workers what they deserve?

“Unite wants to urge the company to resolve this dispute which it can easily do before it escalates to a point where the plant closes.”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said its members “deserve to be getting paid in line with industry standards without having to threaten strike action”.

“The Edrington Group, which owns the Drumchapel plant, is swimming in £177m of profits,” she continued. “Any cuts to pay or lower shift allowance rates is totally unacceptable, and we will stand with our members in their fight for better jobs, pay and conditions.”

‘No plan to cut pay’ 

Highland Park owner Edrington said in a statement that it was “deeply disappointed” by Unite’s move, as it followed a “protracted period of negotiation” including discussions with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas).

“Edrington works hard to be a good employer and to ensure that all our people share in the success of the business,” an Edrington spokesperson said.

“There has been no plan to cut pay or shift allowances, and members of the engineering team who have moved from day shift to early shift will see their earnings increase by 26.3% compared with 16 months ago.

“We urge our employees to reject the proposed industrial action and to ask their representatives to work with us to reach a further fair and competitive wage agreement.”

In other strike news, Unite members at Diageo’s Leven plant in Scotland kicked off a series of 48-hour strikes in January over a pay dispute.

Unite said it is ‘actively’ exploring legal options over claims that Diageo workers could have been unlawfully induced to sign new contracts.

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Author: Nicola Carruthers

Timothy Kelly

Tim is the Founder & Master Distiller at Felene. He developed his passion for the spirits and hospitality business while growing-up and working in his family's restaurant and liquor store business. Tim’s passion for the epicurean lifestyle has found it’s latest manifestation in the Felene Distillery. Tim is a 5-time Gold Medal Award winning Distiller. He has won a Platinum medal at the Prestigious Los Angeles Spirits Awards and his signature vodka was named Best-in-Category by the American Distilling Institute. Mr. Kelly is also a prolific author and writer and his blog is filled with ideas, discoveries, observations and recommendations to help his readers enjoy life’s simple epicurean pleasures.

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