Scottish Diageo workers to strike over 'obscene' 'Scrooge-like' pension cuts

Claire Dodd

Claire Dodd

22 November 2016

Drinks giant Diageo is set to be hit by strikes in the run up to Christmas after workers voted for industrial action today over pension cuts, claiming the company was 'rolling in it'.

Unite members across Diageo's UK sites voted 82% in favour of industrial action short of a strike, and 77% in favour of strike action.

Citing the 'obscene' disparity between executive and general worker pay, GMB Scotland said 63% of workers at Diageo's Scottish operations – including bottling plants at Leven and Shieldhall and distilleries across the country – had voted for action against efforts to save £30m annually from workers' pensions, by closing its final salary scheme.

The company also plans to close a separate scheme – the Diageo Lifestyle Plan – to new employees, and replace it with a new defined contributions scheme.

Diageo's 2015 operating profits stand at £2.8 billion while GMB Scotland claims CEO Ivan Menezes has been awarded a 12% increase, taking his maximum earnings to £8.8 million.

Unite regional officer Pat McIlvogue said: 'We are proud of our members, who have sent a clear message to Diageo that they must keep their pensions promises.

'No-one takes industrial action lightly – especially with Christmas coming up – but Diageo is behaving like Scrooge.

'This is a company that is rolling in cash. Diageo's chief executive Ivan Menezes received £3.8 million in total payments from the company in 2015 – including £424,000 in pension contributions. Its last reported profits were nearly £3 billion. The company recently increased its dividend to shareholders by 5%.

'This is corporate avarice on a scale that even Charles Dickens couldn’t imagine. But this isn’t the Victorian era, and our members will stand together in the face of this corporate greed. We will support them to make sure they get fairness and their promised pension rewards.'

GMB Scotland Organiser Louise Gilmour 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.'

Diageo sites in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Runcorn, Cheshire could be affected by the dispute.

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