A rolling programme of strike action is set to hit corporate giant Unilever’s UK operations as workers step up action to defend their final salary pension scheme.
Unite, the workers’ main union, yesterday announced strike action that will hit all the UK sites beginning at 06:59 on Wednesday 18 January, running until 24:00 on Saturday 28 January, 2012.
The stoppages will hit production of leading food and cleaning products including Marmite, Flora, Hellmann’s mayonnaise, PG Tips, Pot Noodle, Lynx, Persil and Dove. A Unilever product is sold somewhere on the planet every six seconds.
The workers are furious that the company is closing their final salary pension scheme despite earlier assurances to the workforce that it would be retained.
Unilever admits that there is no financial imperative for shutting the scheme, even though plans to replace it with an inferior career average scheme will see workers lose out on average by 20 per cent with some losing as much as 40 per cent of their retirement savings.
The joint trade unions put forward alternatives to the company to save the scheme, and which would both save the company money and reduce risk, but Unilever management stated there was nothing their workers could do to convince them to keep the scheme open.
Further, Unilever is now refusing to meet with Unite at mediators Acas to discuss solutions to the dispute.
Unite national officer, Jennie Formby, said: ‘Last December these workers took the first ever strike action in Unilever’s UK history.
‘Instead of seeing that for the profound expression of frustration that it was, Unilever spitefully cancelled the workers’ Christmas celebrations.
‘Now, across the country people are realising how the company treats its workforce – a company that is the 18th most powerful on the stock exchange, the third biggest consumer products company on the planet, and where the CEO’s pay 285 times that of his average employee, jumps by nearly 50 per cent in one year.
‘A second round of strikes will soon begin right across the business sending a clear message to management that this workforce will not be bullied or cowed.’
The strikes will hit plants in Purfleet, Trafford Park, Burton, Norwich, Crumlin, Northern Ireland, Leeds, Port Sunlight, Warrington, and Gloucester.
The other sites involved in strike action – Unilever UK (Central Resources) Ltd are: Port Sunlight, R&D site; St David’s Park (Near Ewloe in Wales), IT site; and Colworth, Bedford, R&D site.