Christmas cancelled for Unilever strikers

By Dan Colombini

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Trade union, Unilever

Unilever has strongly denied 'Scrooge' accusations after cancelling Christmas gifts and parties for strikers
Unilever has strongly denied 'Scrooge' accusations after cancelling Christmas gifts and parties for strikers
Marmite manufacturer Unilever has been branded a “modern-day Scrooge” after its decision to cancel Christmas celebrations ahead of the first strike in the firm’s history.

The food and consumer giant has scrapped plans to provide staff with festive hampers and office parties as more than 2,500 workers protest over changes to their pensions.

Jenny Formby, national officer at Unite the union, told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “I think it is just a petty, spiteful act. The firm needs to remember its roots, act as it always has and show some respect to its staff.

“I am very disappointed but I can’t say I’m surprised. The best solution would have been to listen to the staff’s concerns and get round the table and talk, rather than behave like a modern-day Scrooge​.”

Unilever defended its actions however, claiming that festive celebrations would not be suitable while the strikes were in action.

Christmas hampers

A spokesman for the firm said: “We felt it would be inappropriate to provide Christmas hampers or gift vouchers to our employees at the sites where industrial action is taking place. Instead we have committed to donating these to one of our national charity partners.”

About 85% of members at Unite voted for strike action last week, which is taking place today (December 9) across 11 Unilever sites. In addition, members of the GMB union also voted three to one in favour of the move.

In response, the firm has also blocked staff holiday bookings for next year, fearing that further strike action is possible.

Waging war

This isn’t the way we expect a blue chip firm like Unilever to behave​, “ Formby added.

For there to be a strike amongst a workforce that has never taken industrial action before, something must be very wrong.

“It is solely out of spite and it would seem Unilever is effectively waging war on its workforce​.”

Formby said the strikers were in “very good spirits​” and were not concerned about the Yule Tide cancellations.

It is what is behind the strike that counts,​” she added.

Unilever is ploughing ahead with its plans to ditch the firm’s final salary pension scheme, which will see the income of thousands of staff slashed by 40%, according to Unite.

The firm said the decision was “tough but necessary​” and warned they would not be pressurised into making the “wrong decision” for the business.

A spokesman added: “"We are deeply concerned by the disproportionate action these unions are taking today. The reality is the union representatives had extensive opportunities to shape the final outcome of consultation we reached in early October. But they decided to walk away from talks.

“We believe that the provision of final salary pensions is a broken model which is no longer appropriate for Unilever. It is our responsibility to protect the long-term sustainability and competitiveness of our UK business, and to do so is in the best interests of our people.​”

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