Edinburgh Johnnie Walker Experience owner Diageo in strike action threat in row over pay cut 'by stealth'
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Complaints about pay cut for weekend engineers were first raised through the grievance process in 2019 but Union chiefs claim Diageo has ‘dragged their heels’ over the issue for years. Now the Union has told the Evening News that strike action could go ahead in November after the company changed the current shift pattern which will result in a cut in shifts for weekend engineers and effectively lower their wages.
Weekend engineering support for the bottling plant based in Leven, Fife have already had their pay slashed by 8 per cent for the last three years, getting less than others doing the same job. Gordon’s Gin and Smirnoff are bottled at the plant. After a vote on strike action 100 per cent voted in favour, with a seventy per cent turnout.
Unite has warned it would be unsafe to run the plant without any engineering support. Recording profit of £4.4 billion, the whisky giant said it has poured £185 million in Scotch whisky tourism in Scotland including the Johnnie Walker centre on Princes Street as well as the transformation of distillery visitor experiences across Scotland.
Diageo denied the claims saying that they are only cutting the number of night shifts for weekend staff at the bottling plant – but they say the pay rate for new starts has not been
Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham said: “It is totally unacceptable for Diageo, an employer who made £4.4 billion profit this year which equates to a profit of £156,377 per employee to try to cut our members pay by stealth, introducing a new pay scale without consulting unions. This behaviour is even more shocking given that our members are living through the worst cost of living crisis in decades.”
Regional officer Bob Macgregor said: “Diageo is hell bent on dragging down the wages of its workers. This is morally disgusting at any time but during a cost of living crisis with the lowest paid workers making a choice between heating their homes or feeding their families, it is contemptible. We have tried for years to get this reviewed. Workers have already lost out on a fair pay rate since 2019. ACAS requires disputes to be dealt with in a timely manner but after years, we are still fighting for fair pay, terms and conditions. We will meet Diageo again next week and if it’s not resolved, we’ll have to serve notice of strike action.”
A Diageo spokesperson said: “The claims in Unite’s press release are incorrect. We are not introducing a lower pay rate for new starters. We are reducing the number of night shifts required to be worked by some weekend shift engineers at Leven in Fife and are following the union’s agreed process to implement the changes to shift premiums as a result. We are committed to seeking resolution to this dispute and are proud of the pay and benefits packages we provide to our people.”