GMB Scotland secretary Gary Smith urged David Mundell to protect the multi-billion sector after Diageo announced more than 100 job losses at its bottling plants in Fife and Glasgow. The Unite union accused the firm of carrying out a “shocking betrayal” of Scots workers after staff were informed that 70 positions will be made redundant at the multinational’s facility in Leven, with 35 to go at Shieldhall.
The cuts are understood to be part of a review process which will see production of some white spirits move to the firm’s Santa Vittoria plant in Italy and others in the US. A company spokesman said the Scottish losses were “regrettable” but insisted it is committed to having a presence here.
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However, the GMB, which raised alarm bells earlier this year about the potential impact of Brexit on the drinks manufacturing sector, is calling on the UK Government to introduce special measures to safeguard the industry with a Nissan-style deal.
Business Secretary Greg Clark revealed the car maker was convinced not to quit the UK by the promise of continued tariff-free trade without additional red-tape after the UK leaves the bloc.
Smith wrote to Mundell, saying: “This industry supports more than 40,000 jobs and has a remarkable multiplier effect where one whisky job supports nearly three more jobs in the wider economy. Whisky is worth about £5 billion to the UK economy and about £4bn comes from exports. Quite simply, we cannot do without this industry.”
Raising concerns about future export costs to key markets, including those in South America and Asia, he went on: “We greatly appreciate that Nissan is important to Sunderland, the north-east and the UK economy. It is dwarfed by the whisky sector in terms of value and jobs. Whatever guarantees were given to Nissan, we would like similar guarantees for our members in whisky.”
Diageo will meet with union representatives over the cuts later this month. Unite regional officer Pat McIlvogue said: “Workers in Scotland help make massive eye-watering profits for Diageo – for the six months to December last year it made an incredible £2.1bn.”