Workers at food and cleaning products manufacturer Unilever have begun an 11-day programme of rolling strike action at sites across the UK in an attempt to defeat bosses’ plans to scrap their final-salary pension schemes. It is the joint strategy of the three unions involved: Unite, USDAW and the GMB.
The plan is a bold move from workers at a company that had never seen strike action until December 2011.
Bob Sutton from Merseyside AWL reports on his visit to a local picket line:
“The picket on the production side of the Unilever plant at Port Sunlight [Merseyside] was around 25 strong on the evening of 21 January. I asked strikers whether they’d be prepared to take further action and the answer was an emphatic yes. There also seemed to be hope that USDAW and Unite officials would come up with a strategy.”
The rolling action helps maintain pressure on Unilever across the country over a sustained period and is a significant step up from the more common model of industrial action in the UK of 24 hours of token action designed merely to express dislike at something management is doing rather than actually stop it.
The strike needs an ongoing strategy for forcing Unilever bosses to abandon their pensions cuts, rather than simply to “get them back around the negotiating table”, as Unite leader Len McCluskey has stated in the press.
As private sector employers take their cue from the government’s slash-and-burn policy towards public sector pensions, other private sector workers should follow Unilever workers’ lead in fighting back.