Drinks manufacturing giant Diageo could be hit by strikes in the run up to Christmas after GMB Scotland members voted strongly for industrial action today over cuts to their pensions.
Workers in Diageo’s Scottish operations, including bottling plants at Leven and Shieldhall in Glasgow, and distilleries across the country, voted for strike action by a majority of 63% and action short of strikes by a majority of 69.7% after a two-week ballot.
The union says that despite “significant growth” – the company recently increased its operating profits to £2,841 million – Diageo is targeting savings of £30 million a year from its workers’ pensions by closing its final salary scheme and also its lifestyle plan to new entrants.
GMB Scotland Organiser, Louise Gilmour, said, “Our members have sent a strong message to Diageo that the company needs to think again if it wants to avoid damaging strikes across Scotland.
“Diageo is happy to significantly increase executive pay in the wake of billions of pounds of profit but they won’t protect the pensions of the workforce who have contributed massively towards the success of the business.
“It’s another example of the obscene disparity between executive pay and the ordinary worker and if there is one company that can most certainly afford to sustain decent pension arrangements for its workers then it’s Diageo.
“It’s a question of fairness and Diageo can clearly go further to protect the pensions of their workers.”
Diageo runs 29 distilleries across Scotland and two bottling plants at Leven in Fife and Shieldhall, Glasgow.
A statement issued by Diageo said, “This is clearly disappointing and the company feels premature whilst we were in ongoing discussions.
“The company and employees are in a consultative process and have not yet moved into consultation on the alternative proposal. It is also far from the positive industrial relations of past decades that the company has had with its employees and which has helped build the reputation our supply business has today.
“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 DPS.
“Management at Diageo remain committed to finding a sustainable solution on pensions that helps to manage the long-term needs of employees in a competitive pension with the growing risk and cost to the company of the DPS scheme. As such the company will seek to move back into discussions with unions and ACAS.”