The trustees of Unilever‘s UK pension fund have agreed to the company’s plans to change the scheme, despite a series of strikes at its factories across the country.

The global consumer goods giant announced on Friday (20 January) that the Trustee Board of its UK pension fund has backed plans to close the company’s final salary plan in favour of an alternate scheme.

Unions have said the new plans would see some employees lose up to 40% of their expected pension and are in the midst of a rolling programme of 11 days of strikes at a number of the company’s sites in the UK.

Unilever said: “Our new arrangements continue to be exceptionally competitive and are unavailable at most other UK companies. This was a tough but necessary choice which reflects the realities of rising life expectancy and increased global market volatility. We have a responsibility to protect the long term sustainability and competitiveness of the business – and to do so is in the best interests of our people.

“At no stage have we underestimated the strength of feeling that making these changes has evoked. Whilst we respect the right of our employees to protest, we remain deeply concerned by the disproportionate action the unions continue to take. As we now look towards the future and implementation of these changes in July, we will be encouraging our employees to consider these competitive new arrangements afresh.”

However, the Unite union warned Unilever that it must not regard the trustee’s agreement as a “green light” to implement the changes.

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Unite national officer Jennie Formby said: “While the trustees’ statement will be disappointing for workers, it will not come as a surprise and it certainly won’t deter them. Strike action has been solid so far and our members have reiterated their determination to continue their campaign until Unilever does the decent thing and starts talking to Unite and the other Unilever unions about how to resolve this dispute.

“It must be noted though, that the trustee board has stated that it does not welcome the company’s decision to cease final salary accrual, so this statement cannot be seen as a strong endorsement of the company’s proposals. Unilever’s reaction to this dispute is a test of whether fat-cat corporates do pay any heed to a public sickened by corporate greed.”