Usdaw says members remain ‘angry and bitterly disappointed’ by Unilever’s decision to close final salary pension scheme. (Pictured: workers march on company’s head office, January 2012)

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Usdaw members working for the foods and detergent giant Unilever in Leeds and its historic ‘workers home village’ at Port Sunlight in the Wirral have voted to accept changes to the company’s pension scheme.

(Pictured: Unilever workers marching on company’s head office in London, January 2012)

It follows a second ballot of members in as many months in the long-running dispute that led to the first ever national strike at the company, involving UNITE and the GMB as well as Usdaw.

The dispute was sparked by Unilever’s decision to replace its final salary pension scheme with a career average one which the unions said would substantially reduce the retirement income of more than 5,200 workers – by an average of 20%, but up to 40% in some cases.

All three unions held a total of 12 strike days, which hit production of foods from Marmite and Pot Noodle to PG Tips and Hellman’s mayonnaise.

Following talks at ACAS in February, the company agreed to what USDAW describes as ‘significant improvements’ to rules for the proposed new scheme, with the company still insisting that the existing final salary scheme was unsustainable, given a deficit of £680m.

When all three unions first put the new proposal to ballots, both Usdaw and GMB members voted to reject it, while Unite members voted by a margin of two to one to accept the offer.

Usdaw says its reps then ‘reluctantly’ agreed to ballot members again.

David Johnson, Usdaw National Officer said: “While we have achieved some important improvements to the replacement CARE scheme, our members remain angry and bitterly disappointed by Unilever’s decision to close the final salary pension scheme.”

“However, once a significant number of their colleagues had voted to accept Unilever’s improved offer, Usdaw members were left with little option but to reluctantly follow suit or face fighting the company on their own.”

“Our members can be proud of the way they have conducted themselves throughout this dispute and for the determination, resolve and unity they have shown in resisting the company’s attack on their future living standards.”


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