Unilever workers in the UK are set to vote on whether to strike in protest at the company’s plans to change its pension scheme.

Staff at Unilever sites around the UK are angry at the consumer goods giant’s bid to end final salary pensions and introduce a scheme linked to career average earnings. Last week, workers voted in favour of holding a ballot on industrial action.

The support for a vote on whether to strike meant talks between unions and Unilever over reform to the company’s pension structure broke down last week.

Jennie Formby, national officer at the Unite union, claimed Unilever would only discuss changes to the company’s average earnings scheme if its plan to close the final salary scheme was accepted. With workers opposing that change and wanting to hold a ballot on industrial action, Unite and its fellow unions – GMB and USDAW – could not continue to take part in discussions, Formby said.

It is unclear when the ballot on industrial action could take place as union officials now need to collate information on its members.

The dispute has led to membership of the Unite union increasing among Unilever staff, Formby said.

She claimed that one reason for the anger at Unilever’s plans is because, in 2008, when the company announced the closure of its final salary scheme to new members, it said the move would keep the programme safe for current members.

Unilever officials could not be reached for immediate comment.