Unilever staff to strike again over final salary pension scheme closure

Unilever employees are set to strike again as part of the continued fight to save their final salary pension scheme.

The action follows on from strike action that took place in December.

The global food and households giant plans to replace the scheme with a career average scheme.

Leaders of unions Unite, GMB and the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw) agreed to call 24-hour strikes at Unilever sites across the country on up to 12 days.

Len McCluskey, general secretary at Unite, said: “The Unilever workers are standing up for themselves and they have right, and their unions, on their side.

“Given that the pensions scheme is funded and healthy, Unilever’s raid on the workers’ pensions is nothing other than bare-faced greed. Why else is the company refusing to talk to us? It must surely be because it is ashamed about the base nature of this snatch.”

A Unilever spokesperson said: “While we fully respect the right of our employees to protest about the changes we are planning to make to our UK pensions arrangements, we remain deeply concerned by the disproportionate action the trade unions are taking.

“This was a tough but necessary choice, which reflects the realities of rising life expectancy and increased market volatility. We believe the provision of final salary pensions is a broken model, which is no longer appropriate for Unilever. It is our responsibility to protect the long-term sustainability and competitiveness of our business, and to do so is in the best interests of our people.

“The pension arrangements, which we plan to implement in July this year are exceptionally competitive, and were significantly enhanced in a total of 13 different ways as a result of the feedback we received from our employees during the 100-day consultation process.”

In April 2011, Unilever UK announced changes to its UK pension arrangements, which included closing the final salary plan to existing employee members and offering new pension arrangements similar to those introduced for new joiners in 2008.

Some of the key points about the new arrangements are:

• The final salary plan will be closed for future accrual for all employee members from 1 July 2012. Past service benefits already built up to that date will be protected.

• The salary link to work out final salary plan pensions will remain, and will be based on employee members’ actual salary increases up to 3% per year, measured cumulatively.

• All Unilever UK employees will be offered a competitive pension plan which includes: a career average plan for salaries between around £5,000 and £48,000, plus a defined contribution (DC) investing plan available to employees with a salary above £48,000; and an option to pay more to get better benefits through voluntary matched contributions. Unilever will now match additional employee contributions into the investing plan of up to 2% of pensionable salary earned up to £43,800.

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