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BMW workers to strike in bitter dispute over pensions

Workers at car giant BMW are to stage the first of a series of strikes in a bitter dispute over pensions.

Members of Unite at Cowley, Hams Hall in the West Midlands and Swindon, will walk out for 24 hours on Wednesday.

Unite said it will be the first strike by workers at the German carmaker, warning that production lines making the Mini and car engines face disruption.

A programme of industrial action stretching over five weeks is being held over the closure of the pension scheme.

Car workers will be on picket lines outside the plants, with placards accusing BMW of "pension robbery" by forcing through changes the union says could see some lose up to £160,000 in their retirement income.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "BMW's refusal to discuss affordable options to keep the pension scheme open means that for the first time its UK workforce will be taking strike action.

"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.

"BMW's bosses should be under no illusion of the determination of Unite members to defend their pensions. They are in this for the long haul.

"We would urge BMW to drop its May 31 deadline to close the pension scheme and avoid the disruption of continued industrial action by negotiating a settlement which is good for the business and good for the workforce."

A BMW spokesman 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.

"We have been in meaningful discussions with Unite since September of last year and have put forward a number of options to help staff transition to the proposed new pension scheme arrangements.

"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."

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