A STRIKE at Chivas Brothers’ Kilmalid site was set to conclude this morning as workers refuse to back down in an ongoing pay dispute.

Trade union Unite called the action, which began yesterday at 6am and was due to conclude at 7.30am on Tuesday morning, after 86 per cent of workers balloted rejected a fresh pay deal from Chivas.

The union drew attention to “gross wage disparities” between Kilmalid workers and those at the firm’s Paisley site – which will close when operations are moved to the former as part of a multi-million pound redevelopment.

Union chiefs wrote to the chief executive of Pernod Ricard, the parent company of Chivas Brothers, Alexandre Ricard last week, urging pay and conditions across the two sites to be brought into line.

The union claimed the latest pay offer of a 1.9 per cent rise would have left some workers at the site up to £900 out of pocket.

Unite regional coordinating officer Elaine Dougall told the Reporter: “Chivas itself states in its advertisements ‘here’s to the straight talkers, who give their word and keep it’.

“A 13-year wait does not constitute a speedy resolution over pay inequalities and the standardisation of terms and conditions across the sites.

“Unite believes it is time the company keeps its own word.

“The reputation of Chivas Brothers is not just at stake, but also Pernod Ricard because of the intransigent actions of local management.

“Pernod Ricard will also now need to decide if broken promises and pay inequality is something it wishes its brand to be associated with.”

However, Laurent Lacassagne, Chairman & CEO at Chivas Brothers said: “We regret that some of our employees at the Kilmalid site have taken industrial action, especially as union members at our Paisley, Southern Operations and Northern Operations have accepted our pay offer.

"While this process continues, we believe it is critical that all information shared with our employees, and put into the public domain, is entirely accurate and as such we would like to correct a few points.

“It is not the case that we told employees in 2006 that we would harmonise pay across the Paisley and Kilmalid sites. We did commit to harmonising a number of benefits, and did so in 2007. With regards to the current pay harmonisation proposal, it was Chivas Brothers who actively proposed this between Kilmalid and Paisley for the first time late last year and we have committed to bringing forward the harmonisation of pay rates to January 2018.

“The figure quoted regarding the difference in pay between our Paisley and Kilmalid sites is entirely inaccurate. Our Kilmalid and Paisley sites have different salary review dates meaning there are periods in the year where pay differences are exaggerated. While there is a slight difference across sites in terms of basic pay, as previously stated, we have already agreed to bring forward the harmonisation of pay to January 2018.

“We want to reiterate that overall pay levels for these employees are highly competitive and, in addition, we expect the majority of basic salaries at Kilmalid to increase by 11.6% over the duration of the three and half years of the pay deal.”

As told in the Reporter, the dispute follows plans confirmed last November that the company was seeking to close its operations base in Paisley, moving its staff and production to Dumbarton, with the full transfer of activities due to take place by the end of 2019.

The company currently employs around 460 staff at Kilmalid, and a further 600 staff in Paisley, with all permanent employees based there due to be transferred within the next three years.

The latest action has led to calls for both sides to get back around the negotiating table, with plans for two further stoppages being announced by the union for August 14 and 15.

West Dunbartonshire MP Martin Docherty said: “I am very concerned about the ongoing pay dispute between Chivas Brothers and its workers at its Kilmalid site in Dumbarton.

“Having met staff and union representatives, it’s clear that inequality in pay is having a detrimental impact on the Chivas Kilmalid workforce – many of whom live in my constituency of West Dunbartonshire.

“It’s unacceptable that similarly experienced staff at Chivas are not being paid equally and fairly for doing the same job and I fully support efforts to resolve this.

“This ongoing dispute only serves to undermine staff morale and negatively impact the reputation of Chivas a world-leading brand and employer.

Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton and the Vale’s MSP, said: “I am disappointed that the dispute has reached this stage and I believe it would be in the best interests of all sides to resume discussions as soon as possible.

“The trade unions are ready and willing to reopen talks at ACAS and I would urge Chivas to get back to the negotiating table.

“The workforce at Kilmalid is loyal and hardworking and all they are asking for is to receive the same benefits as their colleagues in Paisley who do the same job.

“The fact that Chivas’ latest offer was overwhelmingly rejected in a ballot by trade union members speaks volumes about the strength of feeling at Kilmalid.”