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Posted on 26 January 2012 at 10:28 GMT

Unilever Burton-on-Trent - a solid and well-organised strike

Andy Bentley

Before Christmas, when Unilever workers were deciding on strike action, some Unilever bosses were gloating that workers at their Burton-on-Trent factory would not go on strike. Even the Unite union steward agreed. But they certainly got that wrong!

That steward has been replaced by one who is prepared to fight to defend pensions, they took strike action on 9 December with all the other Unilever factories and they were out again on 24 January.

And when I visited their picket line at 6am they were looking well organised for workers who 'wouldn't strike'.

Even in the darkness and a long way off I could see a long line of Unite flags and placards decorating the factory entrance.

There were tables and chairs, two patio heaters on the go to stave off the cold, a gazebo in case of rain and a roadside cafe providing coffee, tea and food.

I passed on a message of support from National Shop Stewards Network Staffordshire which the pickets were pleased to receive.

All workers I spoke to were angry about how they were being treated by a global firm who made 5.2 billion pre-tax profits in 2011.

Some workers have done 20, 30 and more year's service for Unilever and now the company want to cut their pensions.

The picket line received fantastic support from passing motorists who hooted their horns in support of their action.

Burton-on-Trent teacher and Socialist Party member, Chris Parton handed over 40 he had collected from other teachers at his school to pickets for their strike fund. A complete stranger also stopped to hand over a cheque.

Unilever bosses, like CEO Paul Polman who has awarded himself 1 million in company shares, have badly misjudged the willingness and ability of Unilever workers to struggle.

None of those on the picket line want to be on strike but they are determined to fight to defend their pensions.

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