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Unilever defiant as pension dispute date set

By Dan Colombini , 06-Feb-2012

Pot Noodle manufacturer Unilever is remaining defiant in the row over changes to its pension scheme after the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) confirmed that talks with the unions would start later this week.

Unite the union, together with other trade unions have agreed to ACAS talks with Unilever

Unite the union, together with other trade unions have agreed to ACAS talks with Unilever

The Anglo-Dutch consumer giant agreed on Friday (February 3) to meet Unite the Union, GMB and the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) to discuss the dispute, which will now take place on Thursday February 9, an ACAS spokeswoman told FoodManufacture.co.uk.

But the firm is showing no signs of a rethink on the proposed changes to the scheme, which it described as “a broken model which is no longer appropriate.”

Accepted an invitation

A spokesman for Unilever told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “We can confirm that we have accepted an invitation from ACAS to participate in talks with representatives of Unite, GMB and USDAW regarding the dispute about our new UK pension arrangements.

“We believe that the provision of final salary pensions is a broken model which is no longer appropriate for Unilever. By contrast, the new career average arrangements, which will come into effect from July this year, offer our employees a defined benefit pension which is fit for Unilever UK and the times we live in today.”

The decision to resume talks comes a week after workers at Unilever completed 11 days of strikes, held at 12 sites across the country.

The walkouts were a result of the firm’s decision to scrap its final salary pension scheme which will cut the retirement income of its staff by up to 40%, according to the unions.

Following the strikes, Unite national officer, Jenny Formby warned the firm that if it continued to refuse to listen to its workers demands it would “have another strike on its hands”.

This was followed by the announcement on Friday that talks were set to begin following an invitation from ACAS to resolve the dispute.

Responded positively

A spokeswoman for ACAS said: “Acas has written to Unilever, Unite, USDAW and GMB, inviting them to attend conciliation talks to explore ways of reaching a resolution to their current dispute. We are pleased to report that all parties have responded positively to this invitation and arrangements are in hand to agree a meeting date at the earliest opportunity.”

The unions were quick to respond to the announcement but warned that it was still “early days” as all parties attempt to find a solution to the row.

We welcome the fact that Unilever has at last recognised its responsibility to talk to us about a possible resolution to the dispute, a joint union statement revealed.

“We hope the agreement to talk through ACAS is a genuine indication of a willingness to engage meaningfully in an effort to find a solution. However, it is very early days and the dispute will continue until proposals have been put forward that are acceptable to our members.”

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