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Walk-out over pensions change

Whisky workers preparing Xmas strike action

Johnnie Walker ChristinaWorkers at drinks giant Diageo have voted to take industrial action before Christmas over plans to slash their pensions.

Members of the Unite union voted by an overwhelming majority for industrial action at the company, whose brands include Johnnie Walker, Bells, Smirnoff and Guinness.

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.

Diageo plans to change The Diageo Pensions Scheme into a career average scheme worth much less to members.

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.  

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.”

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

Members of the GMB union also voted in favour of industrial action.

Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said the union would be asking politicians to support the Diageo workers and to raise the matter in Holyrood and Westminster.

Pat Rafferty said: “The UK is on course to be the most unequal and unfair country in the developed world. That’s because for decades now, workers have been getting less and less, while shareholders and fat cat executives have been getting more and more. 

“Unite members at Diageo are taking a stand – and as a country, we need to stand with them. We will be calling on every MP and MSP for their support. It’s a clear choice between the values of fairness and greed.”

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

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