Blog: Dean BestPension protests at Unilever AGM

Dean Best | 11 May 2011

UK workers at Unilever today (11 May) protested at the company's AGM over its plans to close its final salary pension scheme.

Staff held a demonstration outside Unilever's annual shareholders meeting in central London to protest at plans that the Unite union claims could "devastate the retirement plans for 5,000 workers".

Unite claims that Unilever has "reneged" on a promise made in 2008 when, the union says, the consumer goods giant closed the scheme to new members but promised to "keep the scheme safe" for existing workers.

Unite national officer Jennie Formby told just-food today (11 May) that 100 staff from Unilever sites across the country had joined the protest.

Formby said the union, which represents some 1,700 Unilever workers in the UK, had been "surprised at just how angry" employees had been at Unilever's plans.

Unilever, workers and union representatives begin a consultation process on the company's plans next month and Formby said the protest had been "a shot across the bow" of the Magnum ice cream maker.

Formby said Unite hoped it could persuade Unilever not to follow through its plans during the consultation with the company.

However, she claimed it was "far too early" to speculate on whether workers would consider industrial action. Formby insisted it would be "wrong" for Unite to suggest strikes before consulting with its members, although she acknowledged that the union would "not rule out" pursuing industrial action.

Unilever declined to comment today and referred just-food to its statement last month that announced the proposals.

Amanda Sourry, Unilever UK and Ireland's chairman, said then that the closure of the final salary pension scheme, among other changes, would "help tackle the increasingly unaffordable and unsustainable costs associated with Unilever's UK pension fund".

Sourry said: "Like many other companies which have already taken similar action, we must face up to this difficult issue now so we can continue to work to ensure Unilever remains a winning and competitive business in the UK."



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