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USDAW members take strike action at Unilever

On Friday 9th December, workers at FTSE 100 giant, Unilever, took strike action for the first time in their history against attacks on pensions. Bosses at Unilever wants to slash thousands of £ from workers’ pensions.

Ian Pattison, Leeds City Socialist Party

According to strikers in Leeds, the pension scheme is slightly in deficit, but Unilever could easily use its £6bn in profits to plug the gap.

The strike at Unilever comes the week after 3m public sector workers from 28 trade unions took strike action in defence of their pensions. The strike at Unilever blows apart the Con-Dem’s government lie that cutting public sector pensions will somehow help private sector workers. The millionaire coalition and millionaire bosses are trying to drive down the living standards of all workers, public and private.

Usdaw, Unite and GMB members at Unilever were striking together for 24 hours from 7am to 7am at 12 factories nationally. In Leeds, there were six pickets at each entrance, and tens more workers protesting on the street opposite.

James, an Usdaw member, whose wife is a senior teaching assistant and as a Unison member had been on strike last Wednesday, said he was set lose £6,500 off his pension. “I did a rough calculation; I could lose silly amounts over the course of my retirement, £300,000.” James said over the last 7 years working for Unilever he had seen his benefits go down, and he made it clear that if he were to accept yet another ‘change’ to his pension, the bosses would just be coming back for more.

One Usdaw steward explained that “in 2008, Unilever promised to keep the final salary pension scheme, if we increased contributions.” Now Unilever want to change this and put everyone on defined contributions, “but even this is only guaranteed for 2 years.” Paul Poleman, top dog at Unilever, took home £1m in shares this month. Poleman says it’s not about the money; it’s about making his company competitive.

Unilever workers on strike in Leeds, understood that bosses weren’t going to back down after just 1 day of strike action, and were willing to take further action until they won. When Unilever workers do strike again they should coordinate their strike with the public sector to ensure it has the maximum effect, and to build unity between public and private sector workers in defence of pensions, and against all the cuts.

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