Three weeks ago Unite voted two to one in favour of Unilever’s revised CARE scheme offer, despite the deal being rejected by the other unions, an Usdaw statement revealed.
Unite was the majority representative with about 1,800 members involved in the row which involved all 12 of Unilever’s UK sites.
David Johnson, Usdaw national officer, said workers were still “angry and bitterly disappointed” at Unilever’s decision and claimed it had been left with no option but to accept the offer.
He said: “Once a significant number of their colleagues had voted to accept Unilever’s improved offer, our members were left with little option but to reluctantly follow suit or face fighting the firm on their own.”
“Our members can be proud of the way they have conducted themselves throughout this dispute and for the determination, resolve and unity they have shown in resisting the company’s attack on their future living standards.”
Jennie Formby, national officer at Unite, told FoodManufacture.co.uk that the offer was accepted as its members had secured one of “the best-in-class pension schemes around”. She also confirmed that Unite’s members remained “disappointed” with the Unilever’s original decision.
“Unite, which is the overwhelming majority representative, with members at all four Unilever sites, accepted the offer last month, but had been waiting for agreement from the minority unions,” she said.
“Obviously we are disappointed that the firm decided to replace the final salary pension scheme but our action was successful and we negotiated one of the best-in-class pay schemes around.”
Unilever was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.
FoodManufacture.co.uk reported in February that the row had taken a step toward reconciliation after the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service ACAS entered the dispute.
The decision followed the completion of 11 days of strikes across Unilever’s sites.
The row had been running since Unilever’s announcement in April last year that it would scrap its final salary pension scheme, resulting in workers’ retirement income being slashed by 40%, Unite claimed.
It subsequently offered new arrangements similar to those for new employees who joined the firm after 2008.
But this decision resulted in the first strike in the firm’s history when around 2,500 workers walked out in anger over the move in December.
Speaking at the time, a 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.”