Unite Scotland has today (6 August) angrily reacted to drinks industry giant Diageo deciding to take the unprecedented decision to withhold shares from the workforce following the announcement of year-end financial results. The 'Freeshares' scheme is annually awarded to workers based on company performance.

Despite a significant drop in operating profits due to the Covid-19 pandemic Diageo still announced a £2.1 billion profit for the year ending on 30 June 2020. A dividend will be paid to shareholders of 69.88p up 2.0 per cent on a year ago. The drinks giant is also investing more than £150 million for malt distilleries and the conversion of Fraser's department store on Edinburgh's Princes Street into the Johnnie Walker visitor centre, which is now expected to be completed in the first half of next year.

Unite Scotland. which represents the Diageo workforce, has drawn attention to other drinks companies such as Edrington and Chivas Regal who have awarded their workers additional annual leave or financial payments in recognition of the contribution made as essential workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Elaine Dougall, Unite regional coordinating officer, said: “Unite’s members at Diageo feel utterly betrayed by the company in light of their efforts to keep the business operating during the Covid-19 pandemic. We recognise that like all company profits there has been a significant drop but other companies in the drinks industry such as Edrington and Chivas Regal have recognised the contribution of their workers by granting additional annual leave or through a financial award. Let’s remember that Diageo still made a £2.1 billion profit and it has paid out its share dividend, yet it refuses to reward the workforce who delivered this [with] access to the company’s Freeshare scheme.”


Notes to editors:

  • Unite Scotland is the country’s biggest and most diverse trade union with around 150,000 members. The union is led in Scotland by Pat Rafferty.