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Joint trade unions say Unilever proposals to cut pensions smacks of opportunism

Date: 02 December 2019 Unilever have begun to brief its staff today on their proposals to close its defined benefit pension scheme for new starters and dramatically reduce the value of pension provision for existing members of staff.
Although the formal consultation process has yet to start, the trade unions understand that the Company’s main justification for proposing to make changes is centred on the increasing costs of providing the scheme.

The reality of the current situation is that the Pension Scheme remains fully funded and has a strong covenant. On that basis, the joint trade unions cannot see any justification for the scale of changes that appear to be being proposed.

While recognising that there could be an increasing pressure on the cost of providing and running the scheme the joint trade unions do not believe that this is justification for closure of the scheme for new starters and the implementation of a two-tier pension provision in an employer the size and success of Unilever.

Daniel Adams - Usdaw National Officer said: “Unilever’s pension scheme is an incredibly well-valued part of our members’ terms and conditions. The joint trade unions are clear that we will not just watch the Company remove and downgrade its pension provision.”

Rhys McCarthy - Unite National Officer said: “The joint trade unions have serious concerns, not only in relation to the existing provision, but also that if closure of the scheme for new starters goes ahead, this will be the death knell for the scheme in its entirety in the medium term. Unilever also needs to be a company with purpose for its hard working employees otherwise its recent claims of only having 'brands with purpose 'will come across as a cynical marketing ploy."

Eamon O’Hearn - GMB National Officer said: “The Company cannot claim to be a market leader with initiatives like "Brands with Purpose" then decide to follow the market in a race to the bottom in pensions - either Unilever wants to set the standard or follow the crowd. This proposal will look to many staff as a lazy shortcut to help achieve the 20% margin by 2020 target the Company has set itself, regardless of the fact it would create a two-tier workforce resulting in unnecessary division and resentment across the entire UK business.”

Notes for editors:
 
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest and the fastest growing trade union with over 410,000 members. Membership has increased by more than one-third over the last couple of decades. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.
 
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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