Workers at the Cowley BMW car plant in Oxford were to vote this week on a pay and conditions package. They should throw it out. The package includes a two-year pay offer of just 4 percent followed by a 3 percent rise. 'That is pathetic money,' says a Cowley worker, 'only £13 a week before tax.' The deal also includes a new grading scheme and performance related pay. 'There's a principle at stake here,' says the worker. 'You can see how BMW want things to go in the future. They've got flexible hours-now they want flexible money.'
BMW did not sell off Cowley last year when the multinational threatened to close the Longbridge plant in Birmingham. Longbridge was bought at the last minute by Phoenix, and Ford took over Land Rover. But BMW kept Cowley because it is to manufacture the revamped Mini. BMW wants to squeeze whatever it can out of workers in the run-up to the launch of the new Mini.
Management want to cut track workers' daily break time by eight minutes a shift. Mass meetings at the plant considered the deal last week. 'There was quite a lot of opposition. People who made antagonistic points were cheered,' says one worker-despite the unions recommending acceptance. The result of the ballot was expected at the end of this week.