Last month Trade Unions claimed that BMW Mini was asking its workers for thirty extra hours a week in return for a pay increase. Threatened industrial action was not good news for the now very successful car manufacturer. Since taking over the brand, BMW Mini has not suffered from any industrial action. This is in sharp contrast to previous owners. According to trade union Unite, ninety seven percent of employees rejected the previous pay offer made during consultations.
BMW claimed that they were offering a 6 percent increase but this is disputed by Unite. They say that there was an offer for a basic increase of 2.21 percent with an additional 1.79 percent on offer in exchange for extra working hours. As a result of the disputed pay Unite were set to organise a strike pending further discussions with BMW. Unite explained that "the majority of the workforce works 11-hour shifts, and more and more productivity demands are being made by BMW. Rather than try to claw back every penny it can, BMW should be treating its workforce with dignity."
However, workers have now accepted an offer which was revised to include an increase of 4.5 percent this year. There is a further promise of an increase of 2.3 percent next year. The main reason why this offer was successful in preventing the proposed strike action was because it omitted the previous need for thirty extra hours over the year to be worked in order to gain an increase in pay. The extra hours had been the main sticking point throughout previous negotiations. The previous offer consisted of a desire to shorten work breaks and to reform both overtime and bonuses. The shortened rest breaks equated to the thirty extra working hours over a year. Had this agreement not been reached it would have been the first strike at the Cowley plant for over thirty years.
Having revised the conditions related to the increase in pay to not include the shortened breaks, Unite were happy to advise their members to accept the offer. Unite commented that the revised offer "recognised the contribution the workers at Oxford make to the continued success of BMW Mini." BMW had been expectedly disappointed with the disagreement but are happy that an agreement has now been reached. They declined to comment further. This story serves as a warning to other businesses currently managing to perform well despite the difficult economic climate that staff might want a share in that success rather than a reduction in their break time!