Strike threat looming at BMW Group over plans to change pensions

Strike threat looming at BMW Group over plans to change pensions

BMW plans to switch existing final-salary pensions to a defined-contribution scheme

BMW has been warned that it could face the first strike by its British workforce over plans to downgrade its pension scheme.

Representatives of the carmaker, led by Frank Bachmann, managing director of BMW UK, and of Unite, headed by Len McCluskey, leader of Britain’s biggest union, gathered in Oxford last week after the union demanded a meeting over BMW’s plans to change its final-salary schemes in the UK to a less generous defined-contribution scheme from June.

Unite has threatened “serious industrial action” involving more than 7,000 workers if pensions are diminished. BMW manufacturers engines at its Hams Hall plant, North Warwickshire, Minis in Oxford and Swindon, and Rolls-Royce cars in Goodwood, West Sussex.

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Mr McCluskey described the talks as cordial, but said that the company had been “left in no doubt as to the depth of anger their pension plans have generated . . . During the meeting Unite raised a number of questions over BMW’s rationale and calculations regarding the defined benefit pension scheme.

“The company will now reflect upon those and we trust engage positively with Unite in finding a solution that safeguards car workers’ pensions and works well for the business.”

BMW, which also produces Minis in the Netherlands, unveiled record profits and sales for the third quarter in November, but margins in its core automotive division fell.

A spokeswoman for BMW said: “We had a positive meeting … and discussions are ongoing with our employee representatives.”

The pension changes will also affect workers at the company’s other British bases, Hams Hall near Birmingham, and Farnborough in Hampshire.

BMW, which has previously closed the final-salary scheme to new UK employees, produced 260,000 Minis last year at Oxford, as well as record numbers of Rolls-Royce cars at Goodwood.

Alex Ralph

This article first appeared in The Times