Socialist Worker

Workers’ happy hour at Famous Grouse

by Esme Choonara
Issue No. 1913

THERE WAS cheering, waving and much beeping of horns last Friday when over 340 GMB union members at the Edrington whisky group in Glasgow walked out on strike.

The company produces Famous Grouse, Cutty Sark, The Macallan and other whisky brands.

Ian King, a GMB organiser, said the strikers had “turned the Cutty Sark into the Marie Celeste”. The company had “massively underestimated the mood of the workforce”, he added.

The strikers had planned to picket the company’s annual general meeting.

But the company moved the meeting forward so that shareholders would be inside before the walkout.

However, no one could have failed to notice more than 200 strikers demonstrating noisily outside all afternoon, or the many hoots from passing car and van drivers.

The strike was sparked when Edrington’s management awarded themselves an 18 percent pay rise.

Then they told workers they could have 3.5 percent if they could find the money through other cuts.

“We have nothing left to give,” said one striker. “We have met them with goodwill at every step of the way. Now we have to take a stand.”

Sarah Jane is Edrington’s longest serving employee in the bottling hall, having worked at the company for 35 years.

“I have seen it getting worse and worse, but this is the first official strike while I’ve been there,” she said. “We’re not putting up with it this time.”

The strike is incredibly solid. Some 94 percent voted for strike action on a 90 percent turnout.

“The numbers speak for themselves about how strongly people feel about the managers,” said one GMB rep.

“We are a relatively young workforce with a new board of directors,” the rep added. “We’ve got a long time ahead of us—so if they get away with this once, they’ll do it again.”

Spirits were still high at a mass meeting of strikers on Monday, which agreed to strike again on Friday 6 August, Thursday 12 August and Friday 13 August.

Edrington is one of Scotland’s largest privately-owned distilleries, producing up to 90 million bottles a day.

Even a one-day stoppage could cost the company up to £7 million. The company’s profits grew from £41 million to £54 million in the year ending March 2004. Shareholders saw their dividends rise by a very healthy 8 percent.

Donations should be made to Edrington Group Strike Appeal and sent to GMB, 1/3 Woodside Crescent, Charing Cross, Glasgow G3 7UJ. Messages of support can be e-mailed to [email protected]

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Article information

Sat 7 Aug 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1913
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