Diageo moving to head-on fight over staff pension rights

Whisky giants set for head-on collision with unions.
Whisky giants set for head-on collision with unions.

EMPLOYEES AT SOME of Speyside’s largest distilleries are set to take strike action over changes being imposed to their pension rights.

A long-running dispute between the GMB Union and distillery giants Diageo has resulted in a 63% vote in favour of strike action.

The dispute centres on imposed changes Diageo wish to make on their staff pension scheme, which would effectively mean the end of final salary pensions to new entrants.

GMB Scotland balloted members on strike action to force the firm to think again – and that resulted in the strong vote in favour, including a 69.7% vote in favour of ‘other forms of industrial action’.

The Scottish organiser for the GMB 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.”

A second union, Unite, has said that its workers would also take part in any strike action after their members voted 82% in favour.

Both unions claim that greed is behind Diageo’s moves, saying the firm has targeted £30million a year in savings from its workers’ pension rights.

However, a spokesman for Diageo claimed that the company was engaged in a constructive review with employees and their unions over the final salary pension scheme.

In a statement a Diageo spokesman said: He 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.”