Strike action looms at Chivas as workers vote against pay freeze

Manufacturing across whisky and spirits giant Chivas’ could be brought to a stand-still after workers voted to support industrial action against a company pay freeze plan.

The GMB union stated that 84.4% of its members backed calls for strike action and 92.7% for action short of strike, meaning industrial action could take place from as early as the last week in May, affecting all Scottish operations, from distillation to bottling.

The dispute was prompted after GMB Scotland uncovered that the Chivas parent company Pernod Ricard awarded pay rises to its workers in France for this year, but mediation talks with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service collapsed last month after Chivas management refused to lift the pay freeze.

Anger among workers has intensified during the ballot after Pernod Ricard announced financial results at the end of April which showed sales of €1.96bn in the three month period until 31 March, with organic growth of 10% expected for the rest of the year.

Chivas produces brands such as Ballantines, Glenlivet, Royal Salute and Aberlour, with GMB representing workers across its Scottish sites, including at Kilmalid bottling hall, Strathclyde Grain Distillery and single malt distilling including The Glenlivet Distillery, as well as maturation sites in Speyside, Clydebank and Ayrshire.

GMB Scotland organiser Keir Greenaway said: “Chivas workers across Scotland have kept the profits rolling in throughout this pandemic, but also against the headwinds of Brexit and a tariffs war with the US – they deserve much better than a real-terms pay cut.

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“It was a low-blow for workers to learn they would be the poor relations of the Pernod Ricard family and the recent financial results from the parent-company now clearly demonstrate that there is no excuse to value them so badly.

“GMB members have sent a clear message that they are prepared to take industrial action to secure better value for their hard work and sacrifice over the last 14 months, and the ball is back in the employer’s court to return with an improved offer.”

Chivas and Pernod Ricard have been contacted for comment.

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