Thousands of BMW workers to strike for eight days over April and May in dispute over "pensions robbery"

 
Rebecca Smith
Strikes will involve workers at the Cowley plant which makes Minis
Strikes will involve workers at the Cowley plant which makes Minis (Source: Getty)

Up to 3,500 BMW workers are planning eight 24-hour walkouts spanning April and May, Unite union announced today.

Staff across the German car giant’s plants in Oxford, Sussex, Swindon and Birmingham are set to walkout after voting to strike in a dispute over what they have called “pensions robbery”. The union warned "production will be significantly disrupted" as a result.

The action, which will also include an overtime ban and work to rule, would affect the Mini plant in Cowley, as well as the Rolls-Royce base in Sussex. The first strike starts on Wednesday 19 April.

BMW plans to close the company’s final salary pension by the end of May, which the union has argued will see workers’ retirement income slashed by as much as £160,000.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “BMW’s refusal to talk about affordable options to keep the pension scheme open means a sizeable chunk of its UK workforce will be taking strike action for the first time in the coming weeks."

Bosses in the UK and BMW’s headquarters in Munich cannot feign surprise that it’s come to this point. Unite has repeatedly warned of the anger their insistence to railroad through the pension scheme’s closure would generate and the resulting industrial action.

I urge BMW to step back from its May deadline for the pension scheme’s closure and negotiate seriously to find a settlement which is good for the business and good for the workforce.

A BMW spokesperson said: "BMW Group has always prided itself in providing excellent pensions for its staff and wants to act now to protect future pension provision and to help improve the cost competitiveness of the UK as a manufacturing base."

A number of planned meetings have taken place since the start of consultation on the proposed pension changes and the company is disappointed by Unite’s notification of industrial action.

The company has put a number of options on the table to help employees transition to the proposed new pension arrangements and it remains open to negotiation.

Unite said 93 per cent of votes favoured strike action on a turnout of 72 per cent.

The announcement was made as workers at BMW’s Swindon plant stage a protest today over the dispute. Talks have been held with the car company, but have not found a resolution to stave off industrial action.

The strikes come amid an uncertain time for the car firm’s UK plans. It is currently deciding where to build its electric version of the Mini, with the first battery-powered car set to go on sale in 2019.

BMW chief executive Harald Krueger said last month that while the UK remained an important location for the company, “much will depend on how Brexit is ultimately negotiated”. He said the firm was “preparing for different scenarios”.

A final decision on the new Mini will be taken this year. Cowley’s factory turns out more than 200,000 Minis a year.

The eight strike dates

Wednesday 19 April – workers at Cowley, Hams Hall and Swindon strike

Sunday 23 April – workers at Cowley and Swindon strike

Wednesday 3 May – workers at Hams Hall strike

Friday 5 May – workers at Rolls-Royce at Goodwood strike

Tuesday 16 May – workers at Cowley, Goodwood, Hams Hall and Swindon strike

Thursday 18 May - workers at Cowley, Goodwood, Hams Hall and Swindon strike

Sunday 21 May – workers at Cowley and Swindon strike

Wednesday 24 May – workers at Goodwood and Hams Hall strike

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