Dairy Crest’s plans to close its final-salary pension scheme to new employees has drawn heat from the Transport and General Workers’ Union (T&G), who are considering the possibility of industrial action to prevent the company pushing ahead with proposals.

The dairy-to-doorstep company has said that the more lucrative final-salary scheme would be withdrawn for new employees in favour of a money-purchase scheme, citing soaring liabilities. The company faces estimated liabilities of GBP650m (US1.13bn), a figure slightly higher than its market capitalisation.

More than three-quarters of the T&G’s 2,000 members at Dairy Crest backed an indicative ballot in favour of a strike. “There is a hope that we can start the ballot next week,” Andrew Dodson of the T&G told just-food. “If there is a ‘yes’ vote, action could commence on 6 April.”

However, Dodson said, the union views industrial action as a last resort. “Our ideal solution would be for the company to give us more time to examine the changes to the pension scheme.”

He explained that Dairy Crest essentially informed the union of the changes it intended to make arbitrarily. “There was no consultation. The company said that there was a deficit on its pension scheme and these were the changes it was going to make.”

The union is currently requesting a three-month extension before the changes are brought into effect, to give it time to scrutinise Dairy Crest’s proposals.