Diageo is to cut more than 100 jobs across its Scotland operations due to alleged concerns over Brexit – a move trade union GMB Scotland has called a “gross betrayal”.
The Johnnie Walker Scotch and Smirnoff vodka maker informed workers and unions on Thursday 20 April that 70 redundancies will be made at its Leven plant in Fife and a further 35 redundancies at its Shieldhall site, near Glasgow.
Diageo said the cuts will be made following the disposal of its wine business and in order to respond to “external volatility”, with GMB Scotland blaming concerns over the UK’s impending departure from the European Union.
According to the union, a restructure at Diageo will see some white spirits production move to its Santa Vittoria plant in Italy and to other plants in the US.
A Diageo spokesperson said: “Following the disposal of our wine business and the subsequent end of the wine bottling contracts, we have reviewed our spirits bottling footprint to ensure we not only deliver leading performance for both our domestic and export supply chains around the world, but also to strengthen our business for the future.
“Regrettably, these changes may impact some roles in our European bottling plants towards the end of the year and we will now enter a period of consultation with our employees and their representatives to discuss the proposals in more detail.
“We are committed to our three spirits bottling sites in Europe – two in Scotland and one in Italy. The outcomes of this review will ensure we have the flexibility to respond to increased competition and external volatility, alongside testing and building the capability we need across our global supply chain to grow our brands.”
GMB Scotland called the action a “gross betrayal of Scottish workers who have contributed significantly to the remarkable success of Diageo and to the massive economic dividend our economy receives from whisky and white spirits manufacturing”.
Earlier this year, GMB Scotland called on the UK Government’s Scottish secretary David Mundell to implement measures that would protect an estimated 160,000 jobs related to Scotch whisky amid Brexit uncertainty.
“Over one hundred skilled workers are now facing unemployment because Diageo are hedging their bets over Brexit – there is absolutely no getting away from this,” said GMB Scotland organiser Louise Gilmore.
“We warned David Mundell and the UK government about the possible impact of Brexit on the future of jobs across our drinks manufacturing sector and about the need for protective measures to safeguard an industry worth billions to the Scottish and UK economies.”
The union will “do everything it possibly can to mitigate these cuts” and will “refuse to accept any compulsory redundancies”.
GMB and Diageo were at loggerheads towards the end of last year over changes to the drinks group’s UK pension scheme, which the union eventually accepted.