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Whisky workers pause strikes to consider pay offer

Workers at Chivas Brothers' distillery

Whisky workers pause strikes to consider pay offer

Workers in the whisky industry in Scotland have suspended a planned strike as they evaluate a new pay offer. 

Chivas Brothers staff in Kilmalid, Dalmuir, Beith, Strathclyde Grain, and Strathisla distilleries, represented by Unite the Union, cast a 91.2 percent strike vote.

The votes come at a time when the company reported record-breaking sales.

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The proposed action involves a series of 24-hour stoppages.

It hits various facilities, including a Dumbuck, West Dunbartonshire warehouse scheduled for December 11 to 14. 

Colleagues from GMB Scotland also put their walkouts on hold.

Approximately one-third of Chivas Brothers' 1,500 employees are Unite members. 

The suspension of all strike activities is contingent upon completing the ballot process related to the new pay offer. 

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Unite members had already rejected a 6.4 percent pay offer by 97 percent.

They cited a disconnection between the offer and the 11.3 percent inflation rate at the time the pay increase should have been implemented.

Chivas Brothers is known for brands like Chivas Regal, Aberlour, Ballantine’s, Royal Salute, and The Glenlivet.

The firm reported a substantial profit after tax of £168.5 million in 2022.

This was described by Unite's general secretary Sharon Graham as "eye-watering profits." 

The French-owned company, Pernod Ricard, also reported a 17 percent increase in net sales for July 2022–June 2023, reaching a 10-year sales high.

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GMB Scotland, which had also planned industrial action, warned of disruption to orders for retailers, hotels, and public houses during the holiday season. 

"Intense negotiations"

Unite industrial officer Andy Brown said: “Unite has been in intense negotiations with Chivas Brothers since we announced our rolling programme of strike action.

“Following the latest round of talks we have agreed to put a new pay offer to our 500-strong Chivas Brothers membership for consideration.

“Unite has taken the decision to suspend all forthcoming industrial action until our membership has had the opportunity to vote on the merits of this new offer.”

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A spokesman for GMB Scotland said: “GMB Scotland members were due to strike at 21 Chivas sites but have suspended action to allow a ballot on the revised offer.”

A Chivas Brothers spokesman said: “While the results of the official ballot are still pending, we are pleased that constructive talks have enabled us to re-engage with the unions on our original proposal and reach a mutually-agreeable position that avoids unnecessary strike action.

“Our offer reflects our ongoing commitment to sharing our success throughout the company, while recognising the normalising business and economic environment for the year ahead.

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