Whisky Bottling Plants Set to Reopen

Whisky Bottling Plants Set to Reopen

Whisky bottling plants operated by the Edrington group, Inver House Distillers and the North British Distillery, are to reopen after production was halted due to coronavirus.

According to a statement from union GMB Scotland given to the BBC, bottling plants owned by Edrington, Inver House and North British have approached staff to return to work.

Other companies, for example Diageo and William Grant & Sons, have kept their facilities open during the health crisis, but have scaled back their production.

Last week, Diageo defended its decision to continue production after the Unite union called for it to cease operations during the health crisis. Diageo, which is believed to still be operating its plants in Leven, Cameron Bridge and Sheildhall, said it had met with union representatives several times, asking them to flag up any issues so that they could be immediately rectified.

A spokesperson from Diageo told db that it had “stringent safety protocols in place across all sites” and that it had “fundamentally changed” the way it operates in order to comply with regulations.

The spokesperson added that the company was complying with the latest government guidelines and that it would never ask any employee to work in an environment in which it was not safe to do so.

However, Keir Greenaway, GMB Scotland organiser for the whisky and spirits sector, told the BBC that union members were getting abuse from the public for going to work.

He said members that were working at whisky companies were “anxious and scared” and didn’t have “confidence that their health and wellbeing can be protected by their employers”.

The trade union is calling on the Scottish government to enforce a suspension of whisky production.

Many Scottish drinks companies, including Edrington, Diageo, William Grant, BrewDog, Verdant Spirits and Leith Gin, have either started production of hand sanitiser, or have donated pure alcohol to other businesses to help combat the shortage of such products during the health crisis.

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said that the production of whisky had been “significantly scaled-back” and was in “rigorous compliance” with government guidelines.

A spokesperson said: “The UK government has also made clear that food and drink production, including alcohol, are essential services and that manufacturing should continue where appropriate safety and social distancing protocols can be put in place in order to re-stock supermarkets and off-licences that remain open during the crisis.”

“This is not business as usual. For companies, large and small, which continue to operate, this is not about profit but about ensuring businesses can be in a position to contribute to Scotland’s economic recovery.”

The Edrington Group, owner of The Macallan, Highland Park and The Famous Grouse, told the BBC that it had worked closely with members of the union on its plans to reopen.

The drinks group, which is also producing hand sanitiser at its Glasgow plant, said it would be enforcing a “controlled restart” which would see its bottling facilities in Glasgow and Speyside reopen today (6 April). Its distilleries, however, would remain closed for at least three months.

Edrington said its facilities would be operating with significantly reduced numbers of workers, and only those with no underlying health conditions “individually or within their household” and that don’t rely on public transport.

The company, which initially suspended its operations on 25 March in order to gain clarity from the government, is now operating “new enhanced social distancing and hygiene measures”.

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