Diageo employees to strike over pensions threat as firm makes massive profits
UNITE TRADE UNIONISTS employed at Diageo drink sites have backed strike action by 77 per cent in a workers’ ballot.
The staff are threatened by planned changes to the company pension scheme, which representatives warn will be “worth much less to members”.
Diageo, one of the world’s wealthiest drinks brands, controls Johnnie Walker, Bells, Smirnoff and Guinness. It is the largest whisky company with operations in Scotland, which formed part of its £2.8bn profit in 2015 alone.
Unite regional officer Pat McIlvogue said: “We are proud of our members, who have sent a clear message to Diageo that they must keep their pensions promises.
“This is corporate avarice on a scale that even Charles Dickens couldn’t imagine.” Pat McIlvogue
“No-one takes industrial action lightly – especially with Christmas coming up – but Diageo is behaving like Scrooge.
“This is a company that is rolling in cash. Diageo’s chief executive Ivan Menezes received £3.8m in total payments from the company in 2015 – including £424,000 in pension contributions. Its last reported profits were nearly £3bn. The company recently increased its dividend to shareholders by 5 per cent.
“This is corporate avarice on a scale that even Charles Dickens couldn’t imagine. But this isn’t the Victorian era, and our members will stand together in the face of this corporate greed. We will support them to make sure they get fairness and their promised pension rewards.”
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Diageo is so dominant in the whisky sector that the competition commission instructed the firm to sell its Whyte & Mackay label. Sales have topped a whopping £10bn from whisky production alone.
Economist Professor John Kay has criticised the finance of the sector, claiming that only £400m of approximately £25bn global retail sales (two per cent) remains in Scotland.
Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty has expressed support for the Diageo workers, and called for politicians to back their case.
Rafferty added: “The UK is on course to be the most unequal and unfair country in the developed world. That’s because for decades now, workers have been getting less and less, while shareholders and fat cat executives have been getting more and more.
“Unite members at Diageo are taking a stand – and as a country, we need to stand with them. We will be calling on every MP and MSP for their support. It’s a clear choice between the values of fairness and greed.”
In a statement to CommonSpace, Diageo said the firm said the vote in favour of industrial action was “clearly disappointing”.
A spokesperson added: “If and when strike action is taken the company will focus on ensuring that our business continues as usual as far as possible. Strong plans are in place for this while we seek to move back into dialogue on the Diageo Pension Scheme.”
Previously Ivan Menezes, Diageo chief executive previously said whisky representatives had "been very pro-active" in lobbying for the sector during the independence referendum.
According to Unite, Diageo sites in Scotland that could be affected by the dispute include: Diageo Scotland, Edinburgh Park; Russell House in Broxburn; Blackgrange Bond; Glenochil Yeast Factory; Dundas House, Borron Street, Glasgow; Diageo Global Supply, Shieldhall, Glasgow; Blythswood in Renfrew; Port Ellen Maltings; Dalwhinnie Distillery; Moray House Distillery, Elgin; Glenlossie Distillery; Talisker Distillery; Glenord Distillery; Diageo Global Supply, Leven, and; Cameronbridge Distillery. The company also has sites in Northern Ireland, Runcorn in Cheshire, and London.
Picture courtesy of Brian Westcott
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