Around 20,000 people took to the streets of Kilmarnock in Scotland yesterday (26 July) to protest against the closure of Diageo's Johnnie Walker bottling plant.

The rally, headed by trade union Unite, drew people from across Scotland in a march to defend the 700 Diageo jobs set to be cut at the Kilmarnock plant.

Unite said the region will be "devastated" if Diageo pulls the plug on the jobs at the company's Kilmarnock plant and forces through its restructuring for the other sites.

Diageo plans to cut around 900 jobs in Scotland as part of a restructuring plan, although the firm has pledged to create an extra 400 jobs at a new packaging site in Fife.

The group, which is the largest Scotch whisky producer, directly employs 4,500 people in the country.

Speaking at last weekend's rally, Unite assistant general secretary Len McCluskey said the job cuts are driven by "greed".

"This is a company drunk on greed. It is making mega-profits - more than GBP2bn (US$3.3bn) last year - and wants still more.

"Well, we have news for Diageo and its boardroom. The days of 'greed is good' are over. Unite is not going to accept that these jobs are going and the communities depending on them will be destroyed.

"If this company thinks it can throw hundreds of decent working men and women on the dole without a fight to the end, then it has been partaking of too much of its merchandise."

Unite said it is working with the GMB trade union and the Scottish Executive on an alternative business plan designed to save jobs.

A spokesperson for Diageo told just-drinks today: "We are aware of the strength of feeling surrounding the restructuring proposals and can understand the reaction of our employees, in particular those at Kilmarnock. The march was a further opportunity to air those views.
"We continue to be in a formal consultation with employee representatives on the proposals, and are working with the consultants appointed by Scottish Enterprise."

Last week, Diageo said following a meeting with Scottish first minister Alex Salmond that the company will consider alternatives to its proposals.