Unilever workers to strike over pensions

by - 28th November 2011, 17.23 BST

Workers employed by Unilever at twelve sites across the UK have voted to take strike action over the company plans to close the company final salary scheme to existing employees for 1st January 2012.

Members of three unions – GMB, Unite and Usdaw – are preparing to take action in the run-up to Christmas.

Unite national officer Jennie Formby said: “Our members have spoken and, while the decision to strike was not an easy one, the message is clear: they will not roll over and accept this attack on their pension scheme.  Unilever must now do the decent thing for its loyal workforce and get back around the negotiating table.

“Unilever is betraying the very staff who have worked tirelessly over decades to make Unilever the hugely successful and profitable global giant it is today.  Our members now face losing thousands of pounds in retirement, whilst at the same time the directors earn millions in bonuses and share options.

“Only this month, Paul Polman (CEO) received shares worth £1,069,986, and Unilever management has told us that the pension changes are not driven by financial imperatives. The truth is they want to maximise returns to shareholders and fat cat executive, and make our members pay the price by slashing their pensions.

“We put forward alternatives to reduce the risk to the final salary scheme and cap benefits, but Unilever refused to listen.

“This attack on our members’ pensions flies in the face of all that Lord Leverhulme (English industrialist and Unilever’s founder) campaigned for when he fought for workers’ pensions in the early 1900s and has deeply angered our members across all areas of the company.”

GMB national officer Alan Black said: “This strike vote demonstrates that pensions are not just a matter of concern for public sector workers as the concerns are shared by workers in the private sector too.  The vote also shows that ordinary workers will not stand idly by to watch profitable employers like Unilever jumping on the pension’s robbery bandwagon.

“Saving for proper level of income in retirement should be an agreed aim of all main political parties, workers and employers. There will now be a meeting with my trade union colleagues to fix dates for strike action. The first date will be before Christmas.”

Usdaw national office David Johnson said: “The ballot result reflects the anger and sense of betrayal our members feel at Unilever’s proposals and it should leave the company in absolutely no doubt about the determination of our members to protect their pension scheme and standard of living in retirement.”