A union has started balloting whisky workers at Chivas Brothers over strike action in response to “corporate greed” attempts to impose a pay freeze.
GMB Scotland said the Chivas parent company Pernod Ricard had awarded pay rises to its workers in France earlier this year.
Discussions between the union and the employer took place earlier this month through Acas – however GMB said these talks collapsed when management suggested they were unwilling to lift the pay freeze.
The ballot runs until Monday May 10, with industrial action potentially impacting the company’s Scottish operations as early as the end of that month.
GMB Scotland represents workers across its Scottish sites, including at Kilmalid bottling hall, Strathclyde Grain Distillery, The Glenlivet Distillery, and maturation sites in Speyside, Clydebank and Ayrshire.
Union organiser Keir Greenaway said: “Despite the many challenges that have faced the whisky industry over the past year, from Brexit to the US tariffs and through a global pandemic, the efforts of Chivas workers in Scotland have kept the profits rolling in for Pernod Ricard.
“These pay negotiations were an opportunity for the company to reward the workers for their substantial efforts with a pay offer that reflects the value of their contribution to the success of the business.
“It’s not right that Chivas workers in Scotland should be treated like second-class citizens, taking real-terms cuts to their pay while their Pernod Ricard colleagues in France have rightly been awarded a pay rise.
“This is about standing up to corporate greed in the fight for proper value, and that’s why we are now balloting our members for industrial action.”
As well as its namesake products, the company produces brands including Ballantine’s, Glenlivet, Royal Salute and Aberlour.
In a statement to the PA news agency, Chivas Brothers chairman and chief executive Jean-Christophe Coutures said: “We deeply value the hard work and commitment of our teams during this crisis, and we are proud that we have been able to navigate these unprecedented times while maintaining 100% of jobs and salaries.
“Like many others, the Covid-19 crisis has negatively impacted our business – and the wider Scotch whisky industry.
“We are the most affected business in Pernod Ricard and the export value of the Scotch whisky sector fell £1.1bn last year, its lowest level since 2010.
“In order to protect our long-term resilience while the crisis is ongoing, we took the difficult decision to implement a salary freeze across the entire business for the past financial year.
“However we have been in constructive discussions with our unions for many months to find alternative ways to reward our teams, and we believe our proposals recognise their continued hard work and dedication.
“We are extremely disappointed that our latest offers – which have included guaranteed pay increases in 2021 and 2022 – have been rejected.”