British workers at Unilever plan to escalate strike action this week with 11 days of rolling stoppages starting on Wednesday in a dispute over plans to axe the consumer goods group's final-salary pension scheme.
Around a third of Unilever's 7,000 British workforce are union members and took part in the first strike in Britain in the group's 82-year history in December. The Unite, GMB and Usdaw trade unions have called for further action.
Concern over pensions changes has been growing in Britain with Unilever closing its final salary scheme to newcomers in 2008 and now for existing members, while oil giant Shell is set to become the last FTSE 100 group to close its British final salary scheme to new workers in 2013.
The number of British businesses that have closed their final salary pensions to all staff is rising fast, and an industry survey in December showed almost a quarter of such schemes are shut to new staff and to former existing members.
Strike action across all Unilever's 12 sites in England and Wales is planned to start on Wednesday January 18 at its Warrington detergents and Norwich Colman's mustard plants, and finish with a stoppage at its Pot Noodle factory at Crumlin in South Wales at midnight on Saturday evening January 28.
Last week, Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite, warned that the industrial action campaign at Unilever could continue into the summer, and urged Unilever to come back to the negotiating table.
The Unite union says Unilever's plans will lead to pension losses of about 20 percent for most staff and up to 40 percent for some.
Unilever argues rising life expectancy and market volatility mean that pensions based on final salary are outdated, and it plans to move its 5,000 members' promised final salary pensions to a less generous average career scheme by July 2012.
The Anglo-Dutch maker of Persil detergents and PG Tips tea is looking to push through the pension changes as its UK scheme has a current deficit of around 680 million pounds, but its move triggered a dispute now in its ninth month.
(Reporting by David Jones; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)