Unite members take pensions message to World Economic Forum


Workers from Port Sunlight in Cheshire will be puncturing corporate power’s party bubble when they turn up at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos to protest against their employer’s grab on the their pensions.

The Davos event – fast becoming known as `Glastonbury festival for the rich’ – will see Unilever workers travel from the North West to deliver a strident message to the rich and powerful: Why won’t Unilever talk to us?

Unilever is planning changes that will see the UK workforce between 20 and 40 per cent worse off following the decision by the company, which sells a product every six seconds, to cut their pensions. Thousands of workers across the twelve UK sites have been on strike since December last year in protest at the plans.

The workers are hoping to deliver a “Wish You Were Here” postcard to Unilever’s chief executive Paul Polman in a bid to get the company to talk to them. Despite repeated appeals and the offer of talks at the conciliation service, ACAS, Unilever has steadfastly refused to meet with the workers’ unions to talk about a fairer settlement.

Paul Polman is one of the co-chairs of this year’s WEF, the theme of which is “The Great Transformation: Shaping New Models” – how we shape our future promoting growth, leadership, sustainability, and society and technology. And yet Unilever’s leader Polman risks losing the respect and trust of his workers by breaking his pension promise and freezing them out of negotiations.

Ahead of the protest, Unite national officer Jennie Formby 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.”

The Unilever strike has hit production of famous brands such as Marmite, Flora, Persil and PG Tips – Lipton Tea in Europe.

The six workers heading to Davos will be detailing their attempts to get a hearing via Twitter (#WEF #Davos #Unilever).

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