Purfleet: 'Support' For Unilever Strike

The first ever strike at consumer goods giant Unilever was said to be "solidly supported" as a picket line Essex was mounted in a row over pensions.

Members of three unions are taking industrial action, which started at 7pm Thursday night and will finish at 7am on Saturday (10th December) , over plans to axe the company's final salary pension scheme, which workers say will slash the retirement income of thousands of staff by up to 40%.

Unions claimed the company had cancelled a Christmas party at the Port Sunlight factory on the Wirral, and had withdrawn hampers and gift vouchers because of the strike.

Sites hit by the action include Port Sunlight, Purfleet, Manchester, Gloucester, Burton-on-Trent and Chester.

Unions said the stoppage had hit production of Unilever's brands including Dove, Marmite, PG Tips, Pot Noodle and Hellmans Mayonnaise, but Unilever said its products were available as usual.

David Johnson, national officer of Usdaw, said: "I've been on the picket lines and can report that the strike is absolutely solid. The support we've had locally and from across the country has been tremendous and it is very much appreciated by our members.

"While our members would much rather be in work than be forced into this position by Unilever's intransigence, the atmosphere on the picket lines at both sites is fantastic and there is a tangible feeling of solidarity and quiet determination among everyone involved."

A Unilever spokesman said, "The pension arrangements which we will implement in July next year are exceptionally competitive, and were significantly enhanced in 13 different ways as a result of the extended consultation process we carried out.

"By continuing to offer all of our employees a "defined benefit" career-average pension plan on their earnings up to £48,000, we are offering arrangements which are unavailable at most other companies in the UK. We hope that our employees who are involved in the action will give careful consideration to the improvements we have already made."