Back in March, the four UK plants that develop cars and components for BMW, MINI and Rolls Royce in Oxfordshire, Chichester, Birmingham and Swindon have threatened to strike over pension issues. Today, Unite union has halted production of the MINI cars, the first by BMW staff in Britain. BMW urged the union to return to the negotiating table.

According to Unite, picket lines will be in place for 24 hours at three BMW’s plants:

  • Cowley in Oxfordshire, where the firm makes the Mini
  • Hams Hall in Birmingham, where it makes engines
  • And Swindon, where it makes components.

Workers at the Rolls-Royce plant in Goodwood are not part of this walk-out.

The workers are protesting against a plan to close a defined-benefit pension scheme in June and move workers to a contribution-based scheme – something Unite says could cost workers up to £160,000 in lost income.

According to BMW, 67% of those affected by the changes who were eligible to vote backed the action.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “BMW’s refusal to discuss affordable options to keep the pension scheme open means that for the first time, its UK workforce will be taking strike action.

“It is very much the last resort for a world-class workforce that takes great pride in making the iconic Mini and world-renowned Rolls-Royce motor cars and one which could have been avoided if BMW’s bosses had been willing to negotiate meaningfully.”

BMW said it was “firmly open” to further talks.

“We have been in meaningful discussions with Unite since September of last year and have put forward a number of options to help staff transition to the proposed new pension scheme arrangements,” it said.

“Like many businesses, we know that the costs and risks associated with defined-benefit pension schemes makes them unsustainable and unaffordable in the long term.”

Unite members are to hold seven further stoppages involving all four of BMW’s UK plants at various times, last one on May 24th.

[Source: BBC]