UNILEVER workers from around the country say they will fight back against unjustified pension changes with a two-week programme of strikes.
Unions Usdaw, Unite and the GMB say the retirement income of thousands of staff will be hit by the company’s plans to replace the final salary pension scheme with a hybrid model. They have warned the move could hit pensions by up to 40%.
In protest, workers from sites such as Leeds, Manchester, Gloucester, Purfleet and Chester will walk out, and the unions have promised further strikes unless the situation is resolved. Rolling strikes will take place for 12 to 14 days, starting from January 17.
Unilever announced plans to replace its final salary scheme in April, and suffered the first strike in its history when its staff took action last month.
Unite national officer Jennie Formby said: “It would seem that Unilever believed the workers would give up after one day’s strike but they are badly mistaken.
“The workforce is angry the company has refused to meet or to attend talks at conciliation service Acas.”
Allan Black, national officer of the GMB, said: “Unilever need to get the message that profitable companies will not be allowed to walk away from their savings commitments to their loyal workforce.”
Unilever has responded with a statement calling the trade union action disproportionate and said it was deeply concerned by the situation.
The firm – which makes brands such as Marmite, Pot Noodle and PG Tips – employs around 7,000 UK workers. It said the final salary scheme is “a broken model which is no longer appropriate for Unilever”.
The firm added: “It is currently not clear how the dispute with the trade unions will be resolved but we are continuing to urge our employees who have participated in industrial action to give further objective consideration to the very competitive new arrangements.
“By continuing to offer all of our employees a defined benefit career average pension plan on their earnings up to £48,000, we are offering arrangements which are unavailable at most other companies in the UK.”