A warning that “serious industrial action will occur” if the company presses ahead with the plans is carried in a letter sent by Len McCluskey, leader of the Unite union. He is due to hold talks with senior management at the car giant’s Mini plant in Cowley, Oxfordshire, next Monday.
BMW, which made record pre-tax profits of €9bn (£7.6bn) in 2015, intends to close two defined-benefit pension schemes to future contributions from June 2017, and shift workers over to its less generous defined-contribution pension scheme. The changes affect workers at all the company’s British bases, including the plants at Cowley and Swindon, the Rolls-Royce plant at Goodwood near Chichester in West Sussex, Hams Hall near Birmingham, and Farnborough in Hampshire.
Unite said it had put forward “affordable proposals” that would have kept the schemes open but said BMW has indicated it will close as originally planned.
The Unite general secretary said there was growing anger among BMW’s British staff, with 96% indicating a willingness to take industrial action in a consultative ballot. “It is evident that, if we do not resolve the differences that exist, then the likelihood of serious industrial action will occur,” he added.
“At a recent meeting of senior Unite shop stewards from all plants, I was able to gauge the concern, frustration and anger of our members,” McCluskey said.
BMW said the pension consultation process, which started in September 2016, had now closed, but added: “Negotiations with employee representatives are ongoing and the company will continue to consider all employee feedback and any counter proposals it may receive before proceeding to a final decision.”