Thousands of workers set to strike
Thousands of workers will go on strike this week in three separate disputes over jobs and pensions affecting consumer goods giant Unilever, tax offices and a leading gallery.
A rolling programme of strike action will hit Unilever sites across the country from Wednesday as unions step up their protest against the company's plans to close its final salary pension scheme. Lightning strikes will hit tax offices on Monday over union fears that work is being privatised, while workers at the National Gallery in London will walk out on Thursday in a row over staff cuts.
Thousands of Unilever staff will go on strike, starting at 6.59am on Wednesday, with action continuing until midnight on January 28. Unite, the GMB and Usdaw said the stoppages will hit production of leading food and cleaning products including Marmite, Flora, Hellmann's mayonnaise, PG Tips, Pot Noodle, Lynx, Persil and Dove.
Unite's national officer Jennie Formby said: "We have repeatedly called upon this company to talk to us about a sensible solution to this dispute. It is deeply regrettable that Unilever refuses to even sit with us at Acas.
"It confirms they are not interested in a common solution and it gives the workforce no other option but to withdraw their labour."
Unilever said it believed the provision of final salary pensions was a "broken model" which was no longer appropriate for the company. A spokesman criticised the strikes and said it was Unilever's responsibility to protect its long-term sustainability and competitiveness.
New pension arrangements being implemented from July were "exceptionally competitive" and had been enhanced following consultations with employees, said the firm.
The strike will hit several sites including Port Sunlight, Warrington, Trafford Park, Norwich, Leeds and Gloucester. Thousands of tax officers will hold lightning walkouts on Monday in protest at plans to bring in private companies to do their work, the Public and Commercial Services union said.
Union members who work in call centres and inquiry offices across the UK will stage a series of short strikes and are planning more for January 31 - the deadline for self-assessment returns. The action is in opposition to the appointment of two private companies to run call handling trials in HMRC tax credit contact centres in Lillyhall in Cumbria and Bathgate in Scotland.
An HMRC spokeswoman said: "The project is not about outsourcing or replacing HMRC jobs. It is ultimately about finding ways to improve the service we provide to our customers."