The Business On... Paul Polman, chief executive, Unilever
The ethical businessman?
Well Paul Polman, the boss of Unilever whose bewildering array of brands include PG Tips, Flora margarine and Persil, recently called for a new approach to capitalism. A "sustainable and equitable capitalism" indeed, in which companies don't feel the need to screw the rest of society to prosper.
Wow, what a great guy.
Yes. He's also lectured the City on its short termism and said the "occupy" movement has a message that business leaders really ought to listen to. You'd think he was some sort of revolutionary in pinstripes.
You're going to tell us there's a catch though?
Oh yes. A very big catch in fact. Friday will see the first strike by Unilever's UK workforce in the company's history. The one-day stoppage follows an overwhelming vote in favour by members of three of Britain's biggest unions.
What's it all about?
Pensions. Unilever has 7,000 staff in Britain. It wants to move the 5,000 of them it promised to pay a pension based on their final salaries to one based on their career average earnings. The latter is less generous and there haven't been any talks for an awfully long time. BTW: it ain't just whinging Brits. The chairman of the European works council is joining the picket line.
So not so ethical then?
Well, no, I suppose not. It's also worth noting that Mr Polman is not such a radical when comes to executive pay. He made £2.5m in 2010 – excluding performance share plans and long-term incentives. With that sort of salary, pensions are going to be the last thing you're worried about.
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