BMW is "sleepwalking into industrial action", Unite warns as workers hold more protests over pensions

Rebecca Smith
More protests went ahead today at the car firm's Mini plant in Cowley
More protests went ahead today at the car firm's Mini plant in Cowley (Source: Getty)

The pensions dispute involving BMW workers across the UK has gone up a gear after Unite union warned the car giant was "sleepwalking into industrial action".

Workers at the Hams Hall engine plant in Warwickshire and the Mini plant in Cowley, Oxfordshire held protests last week, with more staged today over the closure of their final salary pension scheme.

Read more: Unite meets BMW for talks tomorrow in bid to see off looming strike threat

Unite national officer Tony Murphy said:

BMW is sleepwalking into industrial action. I’d urge the management to wake up, recognise the depth of anger and negotiate a settlement which is good for the business and good for the workforce.

"BMW's continued refusal to discuss options for keeping the pension scheme open raises questions about how serious the carmaker is about resolving this dispute," he added. "BMW bosses state they are willing to negotiate seriously, but refuse to talk about anything which isn’t on their agenda."

The union, which claims the closure could see the car firm's UK workforce lose up to £160,000 in retirement income, is balloting the workers for industrial action, with a result due at the end of the month. Up to 7,000 workers could be involved if a walkout went ahead.

Ahead of the fresh talks which took place earlier this week, BMW said: "BMW Group has always prided itself in providing excellent pensions for its staff and wants to act now to protect future pension provision for all its staff and to help protect the cost competitiveness of the UK as a manufacturing base.

"Discussions between the company and its employee representatives are ongoing."

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Earlier this week, BMW boss Harald Krueger remained tight-lipped over the firm's UK future, saying "much will depend" on how Brexit is negotiated.

There have been question marks over the firm's Oxford plant which manufactures most Minis for the company, as BMW mulls building a new electric Mini elsewhere because of Brexit uncertainty.

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