A series of strikes by workers at consumer goods giant Unilever is set to start, with picket lines mounted at several sites in a worsening row over pensions.
Thousands of members of three trade unions will take industrial action over the next 11 days in protest at plans to close the company’s final salary pension scheme.
Unilever said it had been given time to prepare for the action, which it described as “disproportionate”, but unions claimed the walkouts will hit production of leading brands including Persil, PG Tips, Marmite, Pot Noodle, Lynx, Flora and Wall’s ice cream reports the press association.
Factories across the country will be hit by the stoppages, including Port Sunlight on the Wirral, Warrington, Norwich, Leeds, Gloucester, Trafford Park in Manchester, Purfleet in Essex and Ewloe in North Wales.
Union officials said workers were “furious” at the plans to scrap the final salary scheme, which they said would lead to pension cuts of between 20% and 40%.
The company maintained that almost 90% of its affected employees will retain 80% or more of their pension.
Unite has released a film on its website spelling out its side of the dispute. National officer Jennie Formby said: “The hard-working workforce made Unilever into the global giant it is today but consumers will soon know the company better for its greedy pensions snatch than its products.
“This film will be a best seller – it will be viewed millions of times. We urge shoppers to watch it and support workers in their fight to protect the pensions promises made to them.
“Unilever need to clean up their act. Get back round the table before you ruin the business’s reputation for good.”
Allan Black, national officer of the GMB, said: “Unilever can afford to sustain the current pension scheme unchanged due to the profitability of the company. The unions are able to put forward constructive alternative proposals on pensions, but these have never been considered by Unilever.”