Car workers are accusing BMW of ‘pension robbery’ and demanding the car maker stops ‘driving off’ with their pensions by forcing through changes which could see some lose up to £160,000 in their retirement income. BMW’s plan to close the pension scheme by 31 May 2017 comes as latest figures showed a surge in BMW Group’s net profit of eight per cent to €6.9 billion, as well as a record year for Mini sales and a six per cent rise in Roll-Royce sales.
BMW production lines making the Mini and car engines face disruption from Wednesday 19 April with car workers starting a series of 24 hour strikes as part of a programme of industrial action stretching over five weeks over the closure of their pension scheme.
Wednesday’s 24 hour stoppage by members of Britain’s largest union, Unite, is the first ever by BMW’s UK workforce and involves members of the BMW (UK) operations pension scheme working at BMW plants in Cowley, Hams Hall in the West Midlands and Swindon.
Rolls-Royce car workers at BMW’s Goodwood plant are set to stage the third 24 hour walkout in a series of eight across BMW’s four sites as part of the programme of industrial action on Friday 5 May, after their Easter shutdown (see notes).
Commenting 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 31 May 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.”