Consumer goods group Unilever Plc/NV has agreed on Friday to talks with British trade union leaders to try and resolve a dispute over pensions which led to a series of strikes at its UK plants over the last two months.
British workers walked out on strike after Unilever moved to axe its final salary pension scheme, a move that will hit pensions for 5,000 of the group's 7,000 UK employees. The strike action is the first in Britain in the group's 82-year history.
Unilever, which makes household goods brands like Persil, PG Tips and Hellmann's, said it had agreed to talks with three of Britain's biggest unions Unite, GMB and Usdaw through mediation organisation ACAS. The move was immediately welcomed by the unions after Unilever had refused to talk about the pensions dispute since October.
No date has been agreed for the talks, but are expected by both parties to start towards the end of next week.
Around a third of Unilever's British workforce are union members and were involved in a one-day strike in December, and then in 11 days of rolling strikes across the group's 12 UK plants and offices during January.
Unilever says rising life expectancy and market volatility mean pensions based on final salaries are outdated, while the trade unions says the dispute will continue until proposals have been put forward that are acceptable to its members.
(Reporting by David Jones; Editing by Andrew Callus)