BMW workers at three UK plants have started the first of eight days of strike action over a pensions dispute.
Members of Unite union at the car giant's Cowley, Hams Hall and Swindon plants have started a 24-hour walkout - the first by BMW workers in Britain, warning that production lines making the Mini and car engines will face significant disruption.
The union is arranging a course of industrial action stretching across a month to protest the closure of the pension scheme, in what Unite is calling "pensions robbery".
Rolls-Royce workers at the car firm's Goodwood plant will hold the third 24-hour walkout on Friday 5 May.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "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 with Unite.
“Instead BMW has paid lip service to the concerns of a workforce whose hard work and efficiency has helped the German carmaker achieve record sales amid surging profits and sought to pinch their pensions."
The union has requested BMW drop its 31 May deadline to close the pension scheme to avoid the disruption of "continued industrial action".
In a statement, BMW said: "We regret the decision by Unite to stage industrial action and are hopeful that the union’s representatives will return to the negotiating table.
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.
The reason we are proposing changes now is so we can protect existing and future pensions for all our staff and ensure the long term competitiveness of our UK manufacturing operations.
Our door remains firmly open to further talks with Unite to find a resolution that is mutually acceptable to both sides.
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”.
The eight BMW 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