Unite members at BMW’s Swindon Mini plant assembled in droves outside the carmaker’s site this afternoon (April 5) to protest the threatened closure of their final salary pension scheme, which could see some lose up to £160,000 in retirement income.
The Swindon workers are among the more 3,500 BMW workers at other UK sites – including Cowley, Goodwood, Hams Hall – who will be striking for eight days later this month over their employer’s pensions proposals.
It will be the first time that UK BMW workers have ever walked out.
Today’s protest in Swindon follows hard on the heels of another protest in Germany last week (March 29) where a delegation of Unite members took their case all the way to the company’s headquarters in Munich, where they presented a petition to two top BMW executives.
Unite regional officer Fred Hanna, who took part in the protest, said it was “very well attended”.
“We were greatly supported by the European Works Council (EWC) which we really appreciated,” he said. “There were lots of flags and banners and a really great atmosphere. Protestors were out for a full three hours.
“The local community was out in full force supporting us as well.”
Unite member from the Rolls-Royce plant in Goodwood Dave Elson (pictured above right) was among those from the EWC who came to lend their support.
Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said that the enthusiasm with which the Swindon workers attended the protest showed their determination.
“Today’s protest was just the start of a continuing fight against BMW’s proposals to scrap the pension scheme,” he noted. “The fact that it was so well-attended demonstrates how determined the workers are to protect such a good pension scheme.”
The eight days of planned 24-hour strike action, accompanied by a work-to-rule and overtime ban, will begin on April 19, Unite announced today (April 5). The days of strike action across all four sites will stretch over a five-week period ending on May 24.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said that BMW should “recognise that their pension pinching plans will not go unchallenged”.
“BMW’s refusal to talk about affordable options to keep the pension scheme open means a sizable chunk of its UK workforce will be taking strike action for the first time in the coming weeks,” he said.
“Bosses in the UK and BMW’s headquarters in Munich cannot feign surprise that it’s come to this point. Unite has repeatedly warned of the anger their insistence to railroad through the pension scheme’s closure would generate and the resulting industrial action.
“BMW’s bosses need to get their heads out of the sand,” he added. “BMW’s UK workers have contributed significantly to a record year in revenues and sales for the carmaker. They deserve better than broken pension promises and the loss of tens of thousands of pounds in retirement income.
“I urge BMW to step back from its May deadline for the pension scheme’s closure and negotiate seriously to find a settlement which is good for the business and good for the workforce,” he concluded.
Pics by Mark Thomas