Blog: Workers take Unilever pensions fight to Davos

Sam Webb | 25 January 2012

UK workers clashing with Unilever over changes to its pension scheme are stepping up their protests.

Unilever staff from its Port Sunlight facility in Cheshire are travelling to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos to confront the company's CEO Paul Polman, one of the co-chairs of this year's event.

The Unite union says the workers will be "puncturing corporate power's party bubble" at the WEF, a forum where influential people in politics, business and academia meet to discuss global issues.

Unite says Unilever has refused to negotiate over changes that it claims will hit some workers' pockets to the tune of 20-40% come retirement. Thousands of workers are currently engaged in a rolling programme of strikes at Unilever sites throughout the UK.

Jennie Formby, Unite's national officer, said: "It is frankly ridiculous that we have to go to these lengths to get a hearing for the workers, but we are determined that they will be heard.

"Mr Polman may feel that he is safe from protest among the global elite in a swanky ski resort where police outnumber the residents, but our members are going to tell him different. They will fight through snow, the biting cold and the heavy-handed policing because they intend to tell as many people as possible that a man who earns 285 times more than his workers is planning to rob them of thousands in their retirement.

"All these workers want is a fair hearing and their pensions promises to be honoured by one of the wealthiest companies on the planet.

"The Unilever workers will be carrying a message to the rich as they party at Davos on behalf of workers everywhere: your days of greed are up."

Unilever was not immediately available for comment at time of writing. However, in the past they have said the changes are a "tough and necessary choice" to protect the long-term sustainability and competitiveness of the business.

"The reality is that the union representatives had multiple opportunities to help shape the greatly improved final outcome of consultation we reached in October, but unfortunately they decided to walk away from talks," the company said.




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