Belfast Telegraph

Production of Mini halted as BMW workers walk out over pensions

Production of the Mini at Cowley has been halted because of a 24-hour strike by BMW workers in a dispute over pensions.

Mini and BMW engine production at Hams Hall in the West Midlands and the building of parts for the Mini at Swindon have also stopped for the day.

The walkout is the first in a series of eight 24 stoppages by members of Unite hitting BMW's UK plants over the next five weeks, including the Rolls-Royce site in Goodwood, where workers plan to take action for the first time on May 5.

Picket lines were mounted at the plants affected by Wednesday's industrial action.

Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said: "Today's solidly-supported strike should serve as a wake-up call to BMW's bosses and underlines the determination of Unite members to defend their hard-earned pensions.

"BMW workers are deeply alarmed by the company's plans which could see some of them lose up to £160,000 in retirement income.

"BMW bosses need to get their heads out of the sand and recognise this is no way to treat a workforce, which has helped deliver record profits and record sales of the Mini and Rolls-Royce motor cars.

"We would urge BMW's bosses to listen to its world-class workforce, drop its deadline for the pension scheme's closure and negotiate a settlement which is for the business and the workforce.

"Otherwise the alternative will be more industrial action over the coming weeks and continuing disruption to production."

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."