Unilever faces first-ever strike over pension row

The first ever strike at UK consumer goods giant Unilever was said to be "solidly supported" as picket lines were mounted at several sites.

Members of three unions are taking industrial action, which is related to a dispute over pensions. More than 25,000 workers have staged a 24-hour walkout at Unilever plants at Gloucester, Port Sunlight, Purfleet, Norwich, Leeds, Manchester, Bedford, Burton-on-Trent, Crumlin, Deeside and Warrington. The action ends at 7 am today.

The row has taken place because the company plans to axe the final salary pension scheme, which workers say will slash the retirement income of thousands of staff by up to 40 pre cent.

Members of Unite, Usdaw and the GMB unions are taking part in the 24-hour stoppage, the first national strike at the company. Unions said the stoppage had hit production of Unilever's brands including Dove, Marmite, PG Tips, Pot Noodle and Hellmans Mayonnaise, but Unilever said its products were available as usual.

Striking workers have accused bosses of "Scrooge tactics" by cancelling Christmas parties, gifts and hampers. Unilever said the strike had made Christmas gifts inappropriate and instead donated items to charity.

David Johnson, national officer of Usdaw, said, "While our members would much rather be in work than be forced into this position by Unilever's intransigence, the atmosphere on the picket lines at both sites is fantastic and there is a tangible feeling of solidarity and quiet determination among everyone involved. Unilever's petty decision to withdraw Christmas parties, gifts and bonuses has been greeted with derision by our members."