Major Fife employer Diageo reported a multi-billion pound profit yesterday as part of its Scottish workforce prepare to vote on strike action.
Unions GMB Scotland and Unite will ballot their members next week after pay talks with the drinks giant collapsed.
The company has a number of sites in Kirkcaldy and Levenmouth, most notably its bottling plant at Banbeath and the distillery at Cameronbridge.
Yesterday the company – whose brands include Smirnoff, Bailey’s, Johnnie Walker and Guinness – said its operating profits had jumped by 9% to £4 billion for the year to June 30. Sales for the year rose by 5.8% to £12.8bn.
Earlier this week pay talks mediated through the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service collapsed.
During the talks Diageo increased its pay rise offer from 2.5% to 2.8%.
GMB Scotland said Diageo’s latest offer fell “short of members’ aspirations for an above RPI pay rise”.
Unite said the new offer was “considered insignificant”.
Almost 1,000 GMB Scotland and around 500 Unite members will be able to vote in the ballot, which will run from Monday to August 16.
Any strike action will be discontinuous and take place from late August to November.
Yesterday Unite’s regional industrial officer Bob McGregor said called on the firm to make a “fair offer”.
He said: “The company seem more than happy to increase their marketing budget by 8% but refuse to give their workforce an increase anywhere close to that figure.
“This is a shameful position.
“It is only right that the workers benefit from the success and Diageo can easily avoid industrial action by making our members a fair offer.”
GMB Scotland organiser Keir Greenaway said Diageo was “topping up their profits by making their workers poorer”.
He added: “A huge chunk of Diageo’s credibility is built on the back of Scotland and the working class and rural communities across the country that distil, mature, store and bottle their lucrative range of whiskies, and white spirits.
“A pre-tax profit of well over £4bn is absolutely staggering and workers in Scotland have more than played their part.
“If any business can afford to ensure its pay regime tackles the cost of living then it’s Diageo. It’s time they got real on their workers’ pay.”
Diageo said it was “committed to seeking a resolution”, but has “well-developed contingency plans in place in the event of any strike action”.
A spokesman added: “Despite improving our offer, the unions did not move from their position to enable meaningful discussions to take place.”
In its update to the market yesterday, the firm said sales remained strong in the UK and Europe.
The company’s chief finance officer Kathryn Mikells said the “gin phenomenon” has continued to drive sales globally.