Dumbarton Chivas workers are being balloted on industrial action over an attempt to freeze pay in a move dubbed “corporate greed”.

GMB Scotland were set to ballot workers at the Kilmalid bottling plant yesterday (Monday) over the freeze after claims emerged that Chivas’ parent company Pernod Ricard awarded pay rises to workers in France this year.

Discussions took place between the union and Chivas earlier this month but GMB say they collapsed after “management made clear that they were unwilling to lift the pay freeze”.

Kei Greenaway, GMB Scotland organiser, said: “Despite the many challenges that have faced the whisky industry over the past year, from Brexit to the US tariffs and through a global pandemic, the efforts of Chivas workers in Scotland have kept the profits rolling in for Pernod Ricard.

Chivas Brothers, Kilmalid site in Dumbarton

“These pay negotiations were an opportunity for the company to reward the workers for their substantial efforts with a pay offer that reflects the value of their contribution to the success of the business.

“It’s not right that Chivas workers in Scotland should be treated like second class citizens, taking real terms cuts to their pay while their Pernod Ricard colleagues in France have rightly been awarded a pay rise.

“This is about standing up to corporate greed in the fight for proper value, and that’s why we are now balloting our members for industrial action.”

The ballot runs until May 10 and GMB say industrial action could potentially impact Chivas Scottish operations as early as the end of May.

Jean-Christophe Coutures, Chivas Brothers chairman and CEO, said the freeze was imposed due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, adding that the firm had promised guaranteed pay increases in 2021 and 2022.

He said: “We deeply value the hard work and commitment of our teams during this crisis, and we are proud that we have been able to navigate these unprecedented times while maintaining 100 percent of jobs and salaries.

“Like many others, the Covid-19 crisis has negatively impacted our business – and the wider Scotch whisky industry. We are the most affected business in Pernod Ricard and the export value of the Scotch whisky sector fell £1.1billion last year, its lowest level since 2010.

“In order to protect our long-term resilience while the crisis is ongoing, we took the difficult decision to implement a salary freeze across the entire business for the past financial year – however we have been in constructive discussions with our unions for many months to find alternative ways to reward our teams, and we believe our proposals recognise their continued hard work and dedication. We are disappointed that our latest offers – which have included guaranteed pay increases in 2021 and 2022 – have been rejected.”