Unilever has been accused of playing Scrooge after the Marmite maker withdrew festive staff hampers and pulled the plug on office parties before its first-ever British strike on Friday.
It means more than 2,000 Unilever employees will not have the comfort of free Pot Noodles and Knorr soup on chilly picket lines as they stage a 24-hour walkout over pensions changes at the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods firm. Staff parties scheduled for Friday will also be cancelled.
Unilever said it would not provide the traditional food hamper or £15 gift in vouchers to staff at sites where industrial action was taking place, which includes factories in Purfleet, Essex, Trafford Park in Greater Manchester and Port Sunlight on Merseyside.
Production of a host of British food staples will be affected, from PG Tips to Hellman's mayonnaise. "We felt it would be inappropriate to provide Christmas hampers or gift vouchers to our employees at the sites where industrial action is taking place," said Unilever. It will donate the gifts to charity.
Unilever has also blocked holiday bookings for next year. In a memo to staff, a Unilever manager at one site said holiday requests for next year would be refused because further strike action was possible. "The unions have advised there may be more action in the new year. Therefore no holidays can be booked for next year," said the manager, adding that no sick pay would be paid to employees absent between 2 and 9 December.
Unite's national officer, Jennie Formby, warned that Unilever was tarnishing a history of treating its workers well, which included the introduction of staff pensions in the late 19th century.