Socialist Worker

This is a class fight, say Unilever strikers

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2286

Unilever workers striking over pensions in Purfleet, Essex, last month (Pic: Smallman )

Unilever workers striking over pensions in Purfleet, Essex, last month (Pic: Guy Smallman)

A second wave of strikes involving over 2,000 workers in three different unions was set to hit consumer giant Unilever from Tuesday of this week.

The company wants to abolish its final salary pension scheme. This will cost the average worker 20 percent of their retirement income—rising to 40 percent in the future.

Just three years ago management told workers their pensions would be safe as they closed the scheme to new members.

Workers in the Unite, Usdaw and GMB unions struck together at 12 Unilever sites on 9 December—with massive participation on the picket lines and demonstrations.

The company is now refusing to negotiate with the unions, rejecting an invitation to talks with the Acas conciliation service.

This time the strikes will be spread over a 12 day period with different sites out at different times—some of them for 48 hours or longer.

At the margarine and mayonnaise factory in Purfleet, Essex, even different teams will take action separately.

Unite says that this will have a sustained effect on production without any group of workers having to strike for too long.

But there is no substitute for the impact of all workers walking out at the same time and shutting a site down altogether.

There will be at least one day at each site where all union members are called out together—and they are encouraging other workers to visit and show support.

Bill Hodgson is a Unite convenor at Unilever’s Port Sunlight plant in Merseyside.

He told Socialist Worker, “We’ve tried throughout the dispute to foster a sense of solidarity between public and private sector workers.

“This isn’t just about Unilever, it’s part of a more general class fight.

“We sent people to picket lines on 30 November—and we’ll welcome with open arms anyone who wants to come and support us.”

Diary of action

Wednesday 18 January

Port Sunlight and Colworth from midnight for 24 hours.

Warrington and Norwich from 6am for 48 hours

Purfleet in Essex and Deeside from 7am for 24 hours.

Thursday 19 January

Crumlin, Gwent from 6am until Saturday at midnight.

Trafford from 9.50pm for 24 hours.

Friday 20 January

Port Sunlight and Leeds for 24 hours from 6pm

Wednesday 25 January

Burton-on-Trent from 5am for 24 hours. Gloucester for 24 hours from 6.30am.

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Article information

Tue 17 Jan 2012, 18:12 GMT
Issue No. 2286
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