Unions eye strike action after Diageo workers reject ‘disgusting’ pay offer

Scottish Diageo workers could be set for strike action after they rejected an “insulting” pay offer from the spirits giant.

Workers for the Johnnie Walker maker overwhelmingly rejected an offer to increase pay by 2.5%, with 95% of staff dismissing the deal.

Unite the Union said on Tuesday that it will move to ballot its members at Diageo for strike action after the “derisory” pay offer.

Staff frustrations come at a time when Diageo is ploughing large funds into a flagship Johnnie Walker visitor attraction in Edinburgh, as part of a £150 million investment in Scottish Whisky tourism.

The spirits group, which also makes Smirnoff, Gordon’s and Guinness, has seen its share price rise by more than 20% since the start of the year on the back of strong gin and whisky sales.

In January it said that operating profits for the six months to December 2018 had risen to £2.4 billion, up 11% on the same period a year earlier.

The union said that workers deemed the pay offer as “paltry” given improvements in sales and profitability.

Bob McGregor, Unite regional industrial officer, said: “This offer is not only insulting, it’s disgusting given the profits made off the backs of hard working Unite members, who deserve a fairer share of the profits they generate for this hugely successful company.

“Diageo appears willing to spend millions creating a whisky shop for Edinburgh’s tourists, while offering the workers who built the Diageo brands we all know and recognise, a paltry 2.5%.”

Separate negotiations over pay increases have taken place with staff at its sites in England and Ireland.

A Diageo spokeswoman said: “Annual wage negotiations have been taking place with both the GMB and Unite unions in Scotland.

“Following a consultative ballot of their members, the unions have rejected our offer, equal to an increase of 2.8% on overall benefit and pay packages for our employees.

“This offer is made in the context of maintaining a strong reward package and the need for our manufacturing operations to remain competitive.

“Unite have informed us that they now plan to progress to a ballot for industrial action and we remain open to continued talks to secure an acceptable resolution.”

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