About 2,500 workers will strike at 11 Unilever sites, a union spokeswoman told FoodManufacture.co.uk. The strikes will take place at the firm’s facilities in Purfleet, Essex; Port Sunlight, Wirral; Warrington, Cheshire; Leeds; Crumlin, Wales; Gloucester; Manchester and Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire.
Strikes are also planned at Unilever’s IT facility in St David’s Park, Chester and research and development facilities in Colworth, near Bedford and Port Sunlight.
Unite workers will be joined by workers from Usdaw and GMB union members, the spokeswoman added.
The strikes are in response to changes to Unilever’s pension scheme. Nearly 85% of Unite members at Unilever voted for action, with 92% voting in favour of action which fell short of a strike such as work-to-rule.
Unite described Unilever’s new pension arrangements, which would take effect from July 1, 2012, as “inferior”. The plan would lead to losses of 20% for most employees but could increase to 40% in some cases, said the union.
Jennie Formby, Unite national officer, said: “Thousands of our members will walkout on Friday to show their disgust at Unilever’s unacceptable attack on their pensions.
"Their pension fund is financially robust and yet Unilever, a highly profitable company, has shown little willingness to negotiate seriously to avert this dispute. This is a disgraceful incidence of a wealthy global company using the recession as cover to raid the pensions of the less well off.”
The union remains ready and willing to talk at any time, added Formby.
A spokesman for Unilever told FoodManufacture.co.uk that the company has had plenty of time to prepare for any industrial action “so our customers and consumers can rest assured that there will be no disruption to supply”.
Both Unite and Unilever have accused the other side of pulling out of negotiations over final salary pension schemes.
Unilever announced the closure of its final salary pension scheme for existing employees in April. It has offered new arrangements similar to those for new employees who joined the firm after 2008.
The Unilever spokesman said: “The new arrangements will continue to position Unilever competitively in the UK employment market, compared with an increasing majority of companies offering wholly defined contribution pension arrangements.
"We made three major improvements, plus several significant enhancements to our original proposals, which will offer our employees a very competitive and valuable set of pensions arrangements for their future service.”
Unilever manufactures household staple food brands such as: Marmite, Hellman’s Mayonnaise, Pot Noodle and PG Tips.