Workers threatening action

Diageo facing showdown over pension plan

Johnnie WalkerIndustrial action is looming at whisky-to-Guinness giant Diageo over the company’s plans to scrap the final salary pension scheme.

Unite, the trade union, says Diageo, which makes Johnnie Walker whisky and Gordon’s Gin, is looking to move workers into a career average scheme, which will be worth less, and close the Diageo Lifestyle Plan to new employees.

This latter scheme will be replaced by a defined contributions pension, also likely to produce lower returns for workers.

The union will ballot members on industrial action. Diageo has several sites in Scotland and Northern Ireland that could be affected by the dispute.

Unite regional officer Pat McIlvogue said: “Diageo is a company that is making incredible profits from the hard work of our members. But instead of sharing the rewards of success, it has decided to slap its workers in the face. 

“We entered into negotiations with the company in good faith. We agreed to work with the conciliation service ACAS and put forward a proposal that would help protect our members’ pensions, but would still save the company money. 

“The company has rejected this, and we have no option now but to ballot our members on industrial action.”

About 80% of Unite members rejected Diageo’s proposed changes. They will now ballot on industrial action alongside members of the GMB union. 

Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: “This dispute is a clear illustration of where we are going wrong as a country.

“Diageo’s CEO Ivan Menezes received £3.8 million in total payments from the company in 2015 – including £424,000 in pension contributions. The company recently increased its dividend to shareholders by 5 per cent. It is rolling in cash. To attack our members’ pensions at this time is a shameful example of corporate greed.

“Scotland is facing an inequality crisis, with the richest households now 273 times wealthier than the poorest. That’s come about because workers have been getting less and less, while shareholders and executives have been getting more and more.

We can’t go on like this. Unite is determined to make sure that workers get the respect and reward they deserve, and we stand firmly behind our members at Diageo and their fight for fair pensions.”

In recent weeks, BMW, AWE Plc (the Atomic Weapons Establishment), Gatwick Airport, US multinational Honeywell and the Post Office have announced they are planning to close their defined benefit pensions. Unite has pledged to fight to defend pensions at all these organisations.


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