Page last updated at 11:40 GMT, Tuesday, 4 August 2009 12:40 UK

Whisky staff facing 100 job cuts

Whyte and Mackay
The company was bought by an Indian billionaire in May 2007

Whisky producer Whyte & Mackay has confirmed plans to cut dozens of jobs at sites across Scotland.

Up to 85 posts will be lost, with another 15 overseas sales staff facing the axe. A month-long consultation and review of operations is under way.

Whyte and Mackay has plants in the west of Scotland, Highlands and Grangemouth, but no site is facing closure. The firm blamed the economic downturn.

The GMB union said the move was "bitterly disappointing".

The cuts come just weeks after drinks giant Diageo said it was cutting 900 whisky jobs.

Indian billionaire Vijay Mallya bought Whyte & Mackay in a £595m ($1.2bn) deal in May 2007, posting pre-tax profits of £25.6m for the 18 months to the end of March last year.

A combination of the worldwide economic situation and the punitive UK legislative climate means that only the fittest alcoholic drink companies will survive
John Beard
Whyte & Mackay chief executive

The firm currently employs 574 people across its seven sites in Scotland, including its Glasgow city centre headquarters, the Invergordon Distillery and its bottling factory in Grangemouth.

It is understood the job losses could include 30 in Invergordon, two at Dalmore and two on Jura.

The GMB's Harry Donaldson told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme it was "bitterly disappointing" news for the workforce.

He said: "I think it's time that we have a whisky summit in terms of what does this really mean for Scotland and jobs based in Scotland.

"I think we need to involve the Scotch Whisky Association, the employers themselves and the politicians - along with the trade unions."

Downturn blamed

Whyte & Mackay said it had begun a month-long review and would look at ways of minimising compulsory redundancies.

Over the past week it has also held meetings with Scottish Government ministers and officials, including First Minister Alex Salmond.

The firm's key brands are Whyte & Mackay, Isle of Jura and Dalmore malts, Vladivar vodka and Glayva liqueur.

The company is handling a difficult situation in a socially responsible manner
Jim Mather
Enterprise Minister

Chief executive John Beard said: "It will come as no surprise to anybody that a combination of the worldwide economic situation and the punitive UK legislative climate means that only the fittest alcoholic drink companies will survive.

"For Whyte & Mackay this means taking the painful decision to review our structures and costs."

Enterprise Minister Jim Mather said it was clearly an anxious time for staff.

He said: "The company is handling a difficult situation in a socially responsible manner and is clear that it is not closing any of its operations around Scotland.

Glasgow headquarters: 177
Grangemouth bottling plant: 201
Invergordon Distillery: 133
Fettercairn Distillery: 20
Jura Distillery: 17
Dalmore Distillery: 17
Tamnavulin Distillery: 9

"I welcome the fact that it remains deeply committed to its Glasgow head office and that it has strong prospects for the future, especially as regards long-term sales growth in new markets such as India."

He said the company had assured the government it was doing everything it could to avoid compulsory redundancies.

Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie urged ministers to rethink planned legislation on alcohol.

She said: "Scottish Government plans for minimum pricing are going to make the situation very much worse. Many more jobs in the industry will be at risk."

The call was echoed by the Liberal Democrats, with chief whip Mike Rumbles warning the government to be "serious about supporting our national drink".

Meanwhile, the Scottish Parliament's economy committee has been urged to hold an inquiry to ensure the secure future of Scotland's whisky industry.

SNP MSP Willie Coffey wrote to the convener of the committee last week and has received confirmation that the committee will consider an inquiry.

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