By Ben Simmons
European Unilever workers will stand together this week to protest against further cost cutting following plans by the company to reform UK workers’ pensions in a move that the union assert could slash workers' entitlement by up to 40%.
UK workers will travel to Rotterdam to join European Unilever colleagues from other unions outside the company's headquarters. There they will be delivering a solidarity message to management, saying: “Unilever — don’t make workers pay for your profits” to defend their jobs, pensions and pay.
Unilever recently announced solid sales and healthy profits but is still demanding that its long serving UK workers accept cuts to their pensions. Despite admitting that there is “no pressing financial imperative” to make these changes, the company initially insisted it would not negotiate because it was applying a global policy, decided on unilaterally.
As a result thousands of UK workers took part in strike action for the first time in their history. After weeks of strikes and protests the company has at last recognised the need to talk with UK unions. However, the dispute is far from over with workers still to vote on alternative proposals and Unilever workers across Europe fearing that they too will be made to pay for Unilever’s future profits.
Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman’s earnings increased by nearly 50 per cent from 2010 to 2011, with a massive payout of over €8 million (including generous contributions to his company pension). The massive payout comes as Unilever workers in Europe and around the world fear for their futures.
Ahead of the protest, Jennie Formby, Unite's national officer, said: “Paul Polman needs to practice what he preaches. He has pledged to double Unilever’s revenue over the next ten years, promoting what he calls 'sustainable living’. He should instead be focusing on long term sustainable employment and benefits for his staff.
“Executive greed and compensation must be challenged. There was no need to slice the pension of Unilever’s hard working staff. And workers shouldn’t be made to pay for Unilever’s future profits by sacrificing jobs or pay.
“Enough is enough. UK workers will stand shoulder-to-shoulder on Thursday with their European colleagues to voice their anger and determination to fight any further attacks either on our members or on fellow workers in Europe and globally.”
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