The Chivas-owned spirits bottling plant at Kilmalid in Dumbarton. Picture by Bill Heaney
By Bill Heaney
Jackie Baillie MSP has been in discussion with Chivas bosses about their decision to continue to operate the bottling plant at Kilmalid during the covid-19 pandemic.
Earlier this week, after being contacted by several Chivas bottling plant workers who were worried for their health, Jackie Baillie, who represents Dumbarton, Vale of Leven and Helensburgh, wrote to Chivas Regal CEO Jean-Christophe Coutoures.
In her letter, Jackie, pictured left, called on Chivas to protect the health and well-being of the workers, their family members and the wider community. Whilst food and drink manufacturers have been classed as essential businesses, it is questionable whether bottling plants should remain functioning given that they are not making a contribution to tackling the pandemic.
Mr Coutoures responded to the letter, stating that: “Our number one priority is the well-being of our employees, now and for the future. As a business we need to remain operational to protect jobs in the long term and maintain our ability to respond to the expected improvement in market conditions around the globe.”
It was also confirmed that social distancing measures have been put in place within the bottling plant and only workers who are able to get to work by foot or alone in a car have been asked to come in.
However, the GMB, who have active shop stewards within the Chivas bottling plant, informed Jackie Baillie that not all measures of social distancing were in place by the time Kilmalid re-opened yesterday and there is still a lack of alcohol wipes to clean machinery touched by numerous staff members.
The GMB believe that even with a skeleton staff social distancing is extremely difficult and cannot be enforced at all times. The GMB have therefore called for Chivas to close its Kilmalid bottling plant in line with government advice to protect the safety of its workers.
Jackie Baillie MSP said: “I understand the concerns of the employees and their union, the GMB. They want the bottling plant at Kilmalid to close temporarily. Senior managers believe they are taking appropriate precautions and are doing the right thing but reports coming from the shop floor are worrying.
“If the health and well-being of Chivas staff is the company’s priority, they must practice what they preach and consider halting production as a precautionary measure. It is unacceptable to place these workers and their health at risk.
“I have written to the Scottish Government asking them to intervene in this case and I urge Chivas to rethink its plans and mothball the plant.”
The virus pandemic could not have come at a worse time for Chivas Brothers, the Scotch whisky business of Pernod Ricard..
Chivas Brothers is in thew process of transforming its working environment across Scotland and in London.
Just in September, the company announced: “This move comes as the same time as the £50 million bottling hall, which is close to completion, in Kilmalid, Dumbarton, which will be home to an 864-strong bottling team in 2020.”
In addition, Chivas Brothers is also modernising and increasing distillery capacity at The Glenlivet, Scapa and Aberlour locations, elevating visitor centres at The Glenlivet and Strathisla, and is opening a London head office in Chiswick that will unite Chivas Brothers, Pernod Ricard UK and Pernod Ricard Global Travel Retail under one roof. By the end of 2020, one-third of Chivas Brothers employees will have moved to a new workplace.
This comes as Chivas Brothers recently reported full-year financial results showing a solid top line growth of 7% across its strategic international brands: Ballantine’s, Chivas, The Glenlivet and Royal Salute, which grew by +16% primarily due to its popularity in Asia.
Jean-Christophe Coutures, Chairman and CEO of Chivas Brothers, commented then: “We need to keep moving with the times and this is the beginning of a new and exciting chapter for Chivas Brothers as we continue to explore new ways to work better, more efficiently and creatively.”
Bosses and staff of Chivas at opening of new office: Christian Porta, CEO of Pernod Ricard EMEA and Latan, Alex Ricard, CEO and Chairman of Pernod Ricard and Jean-Christophe Coutures, CEO of Chivas Brothers.