LONDON–Thousands of British workers at consumer goods maker Unilever PLC/NV are to stage a series of strikes in an escalation of a dispute over plans to axe their final salary pension scheme, unions said on Saturday.
Last month, union members staged a one-day stoppage, the first strike in Britain in the group’s 81-year history, and a rare walkout over pensions at a UK blue-chip company. Leaders of three unions, Unite, GMB and Usdaw, on Saturday decided to call strikes for up to 12 days starting on Jan. 17 after nine-months of failed talks. “Unilever need to get the message that profitable companies will not be allowed to walk away from their savings commitments to their loyal workforce,” Allan Black, national officer of the GMB, said in a statement. Unilever said it remained “deeply concerned by the disproportionate action the trade unions are taking,” and that it was “not clear how the dispute … will be resolved.” The Anglo-Dutch group, which employs around 7,000 workers at 12 plants in Britain, is looking to move all 5,000 members promised final salary pensions to a career average scheme by July 2012.