Unite Scotland has today (19 April) confirmed that its membership at Chivas Brothers across Scotland are being balloted for industrial action following a breakdown in pay talks.

Unite’s hundreds of members have rejected a pay offer from the drinks industry giant, which equates to a pay freeze. The nation’s leading trade union in the drinks industry has drawn attention to other companies who have offered their workforces greater pay awards such as William Grants (2.3%) and Edrington (2.2%), and the recent suspension of US tariffs on UK goods including single malt whiskies which will further boost the company's profits. Chivas Brothers last posted accounts at Companies House for year ending 2019 which showed a £486 million profit after tax. 

The ballot opens on 19 April and closes on 10 May. If the ballot for industrial action is successful then strike action could affect the company’s Kilmalid, Strathclyde Grain Distillery, Southern Operations and Northern Operations from the middle of May. Chivas Brothers employs around 1,600 workers in Scotland. In December 2020, Unite members voted by 91% to reject the pay offer in a consultative ballot.

Elaine Dougall, Unite regional coordinating officer, said: “Unite's members at Chivas Brothers have reached the end of the line following months of discussions which have barely moved us forward an inch. It would take the company around £300,000 to award the workforce a 1% pay award, incidentally the same figure which the company’s French workforce received. Other players in the industry are also offering significant pay rises in Scotland, whereas Chivas Brothers are offering practically nothing, despite the workers having continued to boost the profits of the company during the pandemic.

“It's a slap in the face to a dedicated workforce which is why we are holding an industrial action ballot. We fully expect a mandate from the workforce with industrial action likely to take place from the middle of May unless the company get back to properly valuing their workforce.”