Boycott Guinness in protest at Diageo job cuts, urges MP

July 17, 2009

Exclusive: Jul 16 2009 By Kevin Schofield

SCOTS drinkers were last night urged to boycott Guinness in protest at Diageo’s plans to axe 900 jobs.

MP Jim Devine said shunning the popular brew – which is made by Diageo – would show the huge level of support that exists for the workers facing the sack.

He made the call as MPs grilled Diageo bosses over their plans.

The company want to shut their Johnnie Walker plant in Kilmarnock – the town where the whisky was first made in 1820 – with the loss of 700 jobs.

They also want to close the historic Port Dundas distillery and cooperage in Glasgow, with more jobs expected to go at other sites across the country.

Devine, the Labour MP for Livingston, said that a one-day boycott of Guinness on August 12 would send a clear message to Diageo that Scotland is opposed to their plans.

Thousands of pints of Guinness are sold in the UK every day and a Scottish boycott could cost the firm millions of pounds.

Devine said: “I’m calling on the people of Scotland to show their support for the workers at Diageo by boycotting Guinness for one day only.

“It’s a simple and easy way for people to demonstrate their anger at this decision.

“This would hit Diageo in the pocket and be an important boost for workers whose jobs are under threat.”

Union chiefs last night welcomed the boycott plans – but said the protest should be widened to include other Diageo products such as Smirnoff vodka and Gordon’s gin.

Billy Parker, of the Unite union, said: “If we get a strong response to the boycott, it would show the strength of feeling that exists in Scotland about Diageo’s plans.

“However, it shouldn’t just be limited to Guinness, which isn’t actually brewed in Scotland.

“I think the boycott should cover all Diageo products and really show the company what we think.”

A Diageo spokesman last night warned boycotting Guinness would harm the pub trade.

He said: “We fully understand the strength of public and political feeling.

“Our concern would be that any product boycott has the potential to harm the wider industry in the long-term and in particular would have a damaging effect on trade in the licensed sector.”

Diageo’s European president Andrew Morgan, and David Gosnell, the firm’s director of global supply, appeared in private in front of Westminster’s Scottish affairs committee yesterday.

They agreed to extend the 90-day consultation with unions if required.

First Minister Alex Salmond vowed to take part in a protest march against the Diageo job cuts, after signing a petition calling on the company to change their mind.

Salmond said: “Kilmarnock is up against it but Scotland is behind Kilmarnock.”

The demo will take place on July 26 and Salmond yesterday told campaigners he was “hugely impressed” by their fight.

He also defended his decision to snub a meeting with Diageo boss Paul Walsh last week so he could appear on TV.

He described the row that broke out as “total nonsense”, adding: “I’m meeting Paul Walsh next Wednesday and that will be a substantive meeting.”

Kilmarnock and Loudoun MP Des Browne last night led a Westminster debate on the Diageo plans in which he called on the company to look at alternatives to closing the plant.

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