Friday, 7 August 2009

Warning over whisky jobs threat

By Hector Mackenzie
Published: 07 August, 2009

LIKELY Easter Ross job losses spurred by a major review being carried out by Whyte and Mackay and first revealed by the Journal could devastate generations of local families, a councillor has warned.

Cromarty Firth councillor Carolyn Wilson made her remarks as Whyte and Mackay announced a review which could lead to 33 job losses in the Invergordon and Alness areas.

The drinks company has blamed the worldwide economic situation "and the punitive UK legislative climate" for a review which will see a total of 100 jobs put on the line. The Glasgow-based firm has 574 employees and has entered formal consultation for the next month to review its options "and look at ways of minimising the number of compulsory redundancies".

Cllr Wilson said, "I'm really concerned that this will be a huge shock to people in the industry. It used to be regarded as a good, solid job and traditionally generations of the same family have followed one another into these posts. That has certainly been the case at Dalmore. Therefore there could be families that are really badly affected. I hope that is something that will be taken into account. I also hope it is a proper consultation and not lip service."

Fellow ward councillor Maxine Smith has already voiced her concerns with the company's managing director, John Beard, who, she says, has held out the possibility of staff being re-employed when the recession eases off. He has also held out the prospect of Invergordon staff being able to relocate depending on redundancy packages taken up by colleagues at the company's seven locations. She has also written to PM Gordon Brown appealing for a cut in duty on spirits "as a preventable measure to reduce pay-offs".

Easter Ross-based MSP Rob Gibson said, "As vice-convener of the economy, energy and tourism committee I will be arguing for a full enquiry into the crisis in Scotch. My colleague Willie Coffey (MSP for Kilmarnock) faces the loss of 700 jobs at a bottling plant in his hometown. Here in Easter Ross the loss of jobs at Invergordon and Dalmore distilleries (owned by Whyte and Mackay) is a symptom of a remote ownership of our icon national drink.

"I welcome Whyte and Mackay's Indian owner's assurance to Scottish Ministers that they are doing everything they can to avoid compulsory redundancies.

"But I am calling for each company to pledge to complete all the stages in production, maturing, bottling and export from a Scottish base.

"I cannot believe that their cuts in profits due to the worldwide economic crisis warrant cuts in Scottish distilleries and downstream production staff. At this time new distilleries are being built to meet an anticipated huge rise in demand for Scotch Whisky when the global economy recovers. Therefore multinational companies have a duty to maintain their Scottish workforce and create stability for their workers."

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