Workers at BMW’s Cowley struck work

Workers at BMW’s Cowley Mini Plant strike for fourth time

Michael Race
Oxford Mail

BMW workers have again taken to the picket line to protest over proposals to scrap their final salary pension scheme.

The walkout at the Mini plant was the fourth of a series planned strikes led by union Unite.

BMW Bosses plan to ditch the pension scheme by May 31.

Hundreds of workers have lined up outside each entrance of the plant, with members holding plackards and blowing horns.

 As a result Mini production has ground to a halt as BMW stopped its production lines, which normally produce about 1,000 different models of the car every day.

John Travers, a senior rep and worker at the plant since 2001, said crowds had been protesting since 4.30am this morning.

The 61-year-old added: “It has had a bad effect on the plant. It has cost Mini production.

“I believe the company was trying to avoid today’s strike, but we have not got anywhere with the negotiations.

“Up until like week the company was refusing to look at options to keep the scheme open. Our agenda is to keep it open and it finally conceded last week.”

Mr Travers, who works in the Body In White shop, said he was happy with how the industrial action had been carried out, adding that no worker wanted the situation to come to this.

He added: “All we want is the company to look at the options to keep it open, not buy people off cheaply.

“When I retire it will have a big effect, I would be a lot worse off.”

Last week union bosses revealed they rejected an ‘insulting’ offer from BMW made in a bid to prevent further walkouts at the plant.

Unite said company representatives at the German car manufacturer had made a ‘crude attempt’ to ‘buy’ their retirements on the cheap, as discussions between reps and plant chief continue.

The firm wants to close the scheme, which union bosses claim workers will face a loss in ‘excess of £160,000 in retirement income’.

The 24-hour stoppages, which have spanned over five weeks, have been hitting BMW sites in Cowley, Hams Hall and Swindon, as well as the Rolls-Royce factory at Goodwood.

The industrial action – of which 93 per cent of Unite members backed – is the first of its kind against BMW in the UK.

The Mini production line operates from Monday to Friday with Saturdays and Sundays used as days for other work, such as maintenance to take place.

The strikes were balloted after workers have expressed alarm over plans to scrap its current pension scheme, after several meetings between Unite and BMW saw no agreement reached.

In a statement BMW said: “We have been in close discussion with Unite for a number of months over the proposed pensions changes.

“We will be making a further and final offer in the next few days that we believe to be fair and in the long-term interests of both the company and all our employees. We are acting now to protect the competitiveness of our UK operations and to make sure our pension arrangements are sustainable for the future.”

They said the scheme they are proposing staff join, with contributions of up to 16 per cent, already has more than 2,000 employees.

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