UNILEVER workers are standing firm despite strong-arm tactics by the employer designed to destroy their resistance to plans to end their final salary pension scheme.
The Unite union yesterday praised Unilever workers for their determination to defend their pensions.
Unite members and shop stewards at Unilever have been coming under huge pressure over recent weeks, especially since notice was given of industrial action, which took place yesterday.
The company have even banned workers from booking holidays in the new year and cancelled the Christmas party at Port Sunlight, as well as refusing to give out Christmas hampers and gift vouchers to staff.
Unite national officer, Jennie Formby, said: ‘Unilever want to slash pensions but our members are showing they are determined to defend themselves.
‘Our members are standing firm despite the heavy-handed tactics Unilever is using – they’ve even cancelled Christmas celebrations and gifts.
‘Rather than sitting down with the unions and trying to settle this dispute, Unilever are instead acting like a modern-day Scrooge. The company is trying to bully its workers into submission through petty and vindictive actions.
‘The company has a proud history of decency – this spiteful behaviour is very bad for its reputation. We remain ready and willing to negotiate and hope the company will begin negotiating in good faith.
‘The workers have shown what they think of Unilever’s vindictiveness by coming out in force in sites right across the country. Spirits are high because our members are doing the right thing – and they are being supported by the public in their fight, with many horns being tooted in solidarity.’
Unilever workers from sites at Purfleet, Port Sunlight, Warrington, Leeds, Crumlin, Gloucester, Manchester, Burton-on-Trent, Norwich and Chester are fighting an unjustified attack on their pensions.
There has been a very strong turnout at every site and the workers’ spirits are very high. They are getting great support from the public and public sector activists have also been at pickets to show solidarity.
The stoppages are hitting production of the global giant’s leading brands, including Dove, Marmite, PG Tips, Pot Noodle and Hellman’s Mayonnaise.
Unite, the lead union at Unilever, is furious with the company’s plans to axe the final salary pension scheme, which will see the retirement income of thousands of staff slashed by up to 40 per cent.
Unilever promised to secure the scheme for its existing members when it closed the final salary pension scheme to new entrants in 2008.
Yet the company intends to push ahead with plans to close the scheme to its existing members and transfer them to an inferior Career Average Revalued Earning (CARE) scheme with effect from July 1st next year.
There was a 6am-6pm picket line in Norwich outside Unilever Colman’s, which manufactures mustard.
Dave Goodwin, who has worked at the factory for 33 years, told News Line: ‘We’re talking not about a few pounds a year, we’re looking from £20 a week right through to £100 a week, that’s what it works out at.
‘We don’t take industrial action lightly but we need to make a stand at the amount of money we’re all losing. I myself am going to lose £4,000 a year and there’s a lot of other members here who will lose more.
‘At the end of the day our pension is our salary when we retire.’
Lou Stopher, who drives a forklift truck, added: ‘I have still got nine years service left before I retire. I’m going to be losing £2,000 a year every year in retirement – I don’t think that’s acceptable.’