Unions warn of strikes over Nestlé pension changes

Dame Fiona Kendrick:, chief executive of Nestl� UK & Ireland

Dame Fiona Kendrick:, chief executive of Nestl� UK & Ireland - Credit: Archant

Food giant Nestlé has announced plans to close its defined benefit pension scheme, sparking the threat of industrial action.

The company, which employs around 8,000 workers in the UK, said it planned to replace it with a defined contribution scheme.

Unions accused the company of an “act of betrayal” and warned that strikes “loomed large” if the change goes ahead.

Nestlé introduced the option of a defined contribution scheme for employees in 2010 while continuing to offer a defined benefit scheme. A company statement said: “Unfortunately, the costs and risks of providing a defined benefit scheme have continued to increase substantially in recent years.

“With regret the company is therefore proposing its closure and replacement with one of the most attractive defined contribution schemes available.”

Dame Fiona Kendrick, chief executive and chairman of Nestlé UK and Ireland, said: “We realise that these proposed changes will cause concern for employees who are building up defined pension benefits in the Nestlé UK pension fund, or are eligible to do so.

“We are very sorry that we have to propose these changes but under the circumstances we believe it is the right option.”

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The company said it would consult employees and unions and give “careful consideration” to their response before a final decision.

Unite national officer Julia Long said: “Many loyal workers will feel led up the garden path and see these changes as an act of betrayal by Nestlé. Five years ago they agreed to pension changes in good faith on the understanding that their pension would be secure for the future.”

GMB national officer Stuart Fegan added: “We urge Nestlé to think again on these proposals as we fear that the UK workforce will not accept these changes willingly.

“Strike action, with all its consequences for Nestlé’s corporate brand if these proposals are implemented, looms large across Nestlé in the UK.”

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