Diageo jobs under threat with Brexit move

Diageo's plant at Banbeath, Leven.
Diageo's plant at Banbeath, Leven.

Levenmouth was reeling this afternoon (Thursday) over fears that Diageo is to cut 70 jobs from its Leven site.

Workers and trade unions are believed to have been informed that there will be 70 redundancies at Leven plant and a further 35 at its Shieldhall site, near Glasgow.

The cuts are part of a plan which will see selected white spirits production moved to the drinks giant’s Santa Vittoria plant in Italy and also trial production of Smirnoff vodka in plants in the USA.

Unions were quick to condemn the move.

Unite described it as a betrayal of Scottish workers.

Pat McIlvogue, Unite regional officer, said: “This is a shocking betrayal of Scottish workers. Diageo isn’t proposing cutting the volume of what it produces – the work will still have be done somewhere. But it’s telling Scottish workers that they’re not the ones that are going to be doing it.

“Scotland has been very good to Diageo. The company makes massive profits because of its association with Scotch whisky. Leven and Shieldhall are some of the most efficient, productive drinks facilities in the world.”

“Workers in Scotland help make massive eye-watering profits for Diageo – for the six months to 31 December last year it made an incredible £2.1 billion. That was 16 per cent up on the previous year.

“This is not a company that is short of cash. There is absolutely no justification for Diageo to turn its back on Scottish workers, and leave scores of them without a livelihood.”

Meanwhile, GMB Scotland’s accusations were aimed at the UK Govenment, saying it was “a gross betrayal” of drinks manufacturing workers and that the plans were due to Brexit concerns.

GMB Scotland warned the UK Government’s Scottish Secretary David Mundell earlier this year about the need for special measures to protect Scotland’s drinks manufacturing sector against the backdrop of Brexit uncertainty.

Union representatives are scheduled to meet Diageo senior executives early next week where redundancy timeframes are expected to be confirmed.

Louise Gilmour, GMB Scotland organiser, said: “Over 100 skilled workers are now facing unemployment because Diageo are hedging their bets over Brexit – there is absolutely no getting away from this.

“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.

“Instead of listening to the real concerns of working people and acting on them, the Tories are off on the election trail asking voters to back them over Brexit but the harsh realities of the decision to withdraw from the EU are already taking hold.

“This is 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.

“GMB will do everything it possibly can to mitigate these cuts and we will refuse to accept any compulsory redundancies but let’s be clear that the UK government has been asleep at the wheel over Brexit and it’s evidenced in these cuts today.”

North East Fife MP Stephen Gethins said: “This will be a real blow to the employees affected, their families and the wider community.

“I have written to Diageo asking for more information on their plans and an explanation of why they have taken this decision. I have also written to the Cabinet Secretary for the economy, Keith Brown, asking for the Scottish Government to provide assistance.

“I will also raise this in Parliament and, given the GMB’s remarks about Europe, will ask the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis, what assessment he has made of the impact of leaving the European Union on this hugely important industry and one of the biggest employers in Fife.”

Diageo would only say a review of the spirits “bottling footprint” could “regrettably” impact on European bottling plants towards the end of the year.

Its full statement 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.”