On 19th April, workers at BMW’s engine plant in Coleshill held the first of 5 separate 24 hour strikes against changes to the pension scheme. Part of the first national strike by workers for BMW in the UK, the stoppage was called by Unite the Union after a massive 93% vote on a 72% turnout was delivered.
The company is trying to force through a change from a final salary pension scheme (based on workers’ contributions) to a defined benefit scheme (leaving retirement income at the mercy of stock market fluctuations). This could see the 5000 workers in the scheme losing up to £160,000 over the course of retirement. The move comes in spite of BMW Group making profits of €6.9bn in the year to March 2017, with orders constantly increasing for the UK made Mini and Rolls Royce brands.
There was a determined mood among those on the picket line to fight back, with one striker saying “you plan out what you think you’ll need for your retirement, and keep putting towards your pension pot, and then suddenly the company turn round and say you might not be getting what you thought you would. It’s a disgrace”.
Reports from inside suggest that some sections were closed entirely, with managers desperately looking for qualified staff to keep production going on others.
The strike continues with further action planned on the 3rd, 16th, 18th and 24th May.