Unilever pension move given go-ahead


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The Independent Online

Trustees of consumer giant Unilever have given the go-ahead for controversial changes to the firm's pensions, while workers continued to take strike action in protest at the move.

The trustee board said it had given careful consideration to the plan to scrap the final salary scheme, noting that a number of "significant" improvements had been made to the original proposals.

A statement said: "The trustee board is aware that many employees oppose the proposed changes or elements of them, and during its deliberations it considered presentations from both employee representatives and the company.

"However, it is obliged to make its decision taking into account all the factors that it considers relevant. These include the interests of all members (pensioner and deferred members of the fund as well as active members), and the legitimate objective of the company to determine what it considers to be an appropriate and sustainable reward policy in a competitive market.

"The trustee board has concluded that, following the proposed changes, the company will be providing pension benefits which compare favourably with those available to employees of many other companies that have moved wholly to defined contribution provision.

"Whilst the trustee board does not welcome the company's decision to cease final salary accrual, it has concluded it should not oppose it."

Unite, one of three unions involved in strikes against the company, which started on Wednesday and will run for another week, warned Unilever that it must not regard the report as a green light to force through pension changes.

National officer Jennie Formby said: "While the trustees' statement will be disappointing for workers, it will not come as a surprise and it certainly won't deter them. Strike action has been solid so far and our members have reiterated their determination to continue their campaign until Unilever does the decent thing and starts talking to Unite and the other Unilever unions about how to resolve this dispute.

"It must be noted though, that the trustee board has stated that it does not welcome the company's decision to cease final salary accrual. So this statement cannot be seen as a strong endorsement of the company's proposals.

"Further, there is no mention anywhere in the statement of the deficit, once again emphasising the company's statement to the unions during the consultation that there is no pressing financial imperative to change the scheme."