Over 2,000 private sector workers in three trade unions were set to walk out on Friday of this week at multinational company Unilever.
This is the first national strike ever in the firm’s history, and will hit 13 sites around England and Wales.
Workers are fighting an attack on pensions that will cost them up to 40 percent of their retirement income.
Unite union members voted by an overwhelming 85 percent for strikes and 92 percent for action short of a strike, on a 67 percent turnout.
Workers in the GMB and Usdaw unions have also voted to join the strike.
Bill Hodgson is a Unite rep at the research and development site in Port Sunlight, Merseyside.
He told Socialist Worker, “The mood is quite solid and there’s a lot of anger.
“Only three years ago, the pension scheme was closed to new members, supposedly to make it affordable.
“A lot of our members see this as the first step in a broader attack on pensions.”
Bill added that Unilever says it wants to move towards a defined contribution scheme that would hit all workers.
Unilever produces dozens of familiar brands, including PG Tips, Dove, Persil, Flora and Surf. “Share prices are rocketing,” said Unite rep Jane Stewart.
“The pension changes are just about how much money they can make at the expense of workers.”
In the dispute over public sector pensions, the government made great effort to pit private and public sector workers against each other.
But the Unilever dispute shows that private sector workers are fighting back too.
“We’ve already had lots of messages of solidarity from public sector workers,” said Bill. “It’s great to show there’s solidarity between the public and private sector.”
A delegation from trade unions representing Unilever workers in other European countries will fly over to Merseyside to show their solidarity on the picket lines.
Members of the Unite, GMB and Usdaw unions will be striking at 13 sites around England and Wales this Friday. They would appreciate your solidarity at the picket lines.
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