Diageo workers threaten strike action over pension cuts

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Drinks giant Diageo is being threatened with strikes in the run up to Christmas after workers voted for industrial action over cuts to their pensions.

Members of the GMB union in Diageo's Scottish operations, including bottling plants at Leven and Shieldhall and distilleries across the country, backed walkouts by 63% and other forms of industrial action  by  69.7%.

The union said that despite "significant" growth, Diageo is targeting savings of £30 million a year from its workers' pensions by closing its final salary scheme and also a so-called "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."

 

Unite workers will also take part in any industrial action and the union said sites in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Runcorn, Cheshire, could be affected by the dispute.

Members of Unite voted 82% in favour of industrial action short of a strike, and 77% in favour of strike action.

Regional officer Pat McIlvogue said: "We are proud of our members, who have sent a clear message to Diageo that they must keep their pension promises.

"No-one takes industrial action lightly - especially with Christmas coming up - but Diageo is behaving like Scrooge."

Unite's Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said the union would be asking politicians to support workers and to raise the matter in both Westminster and Holyrood.

He said: "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."

Diageo said in a statement: "Diageo has been engaged with employees and their representatives in a consultative review of the company's UK final salary pension scheme since February this year.

"This process has involved detailed discussions on the future of the scheme and employee pension priorities as well as a proposal for change. More recently the company and union representatives concluded discussions at Acas which resulted in an alternative proposal for change.

"The joint unions subsequently said that their members were not supportive of the alternative proposal (following a ballot), despite both unions (GMB and Unite) themselves confirming that this second proposal was the best possible negotiated outcome and a fundamentally improved proposal.

"The unions therefore chose to ballot their members for industrial action. The result of this ballot has been a support for industrial action including possible strike action.

"This is clearly disappointing and the company feels premature whilst we were in ongoing discussions.

"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.