Weekend woes as BMW cuts 850 Mini staff

BMW is laying off 850 very angry weekend agency staff, as it cuts production at its Oxfordshire plant.

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

BMW said today that it’s going to churn out fewer Minis at its Cowley plant, in response to slumping car sales around the world. This means that the 850 agency staff who work there at the weekends suddenly find themselves out on their ear, as BMW scale back to a five-day operating week. Since Mini was supposed to be one of the few car brands doing relatively well in the downturn, this has come as a nasty shock for the UK industry – and the unions are hopping mad that BMW has gone for the soft target of agency workers...

The global car industry is clearly having a torrid time at the moment, but the iconic British (ish) Mini had appeared to be more resilient than most. Last month, BMW reported that global sales were up 4% in 2008, including a jump of more than 25% in the US. But this year has been much slower, and the German company said today that ‘while Mini has been weathering the economic downturn, it is not immune from the challenges of the current situation’. So it’s decided to switch to two-day shifts and halt all weekend production for the foreseeable future.

Although the cuts will only kick in on March 2, BMW is closing down the factory this week to save costs – so the 850 weekend workers who discovered their fate yesterday won’t be coming back. And not surprisingly, they were pretty miffed about being effectively sacked with one hour’s notice, and little prospect of any kind of compensation. According to union leaders, there were angry scenes when the news was announced, with bosses being booed and pelted with fruit – understandable, although it probably didn’t do wonders for their chances of being offered alternative roles in the future.

Unions accused BMW of taking an unnecessarily drastic approach. ‘Sacking an entire shift like this, and targeting agency workers who have no rights to redundancy pay, is blatant opportunism on BMW’s part and nothing short of scandalous,’ said Unite joint general secretary Tony Woodley, pointing out that it would never have attempted this in its homeland (not least because it’s illegal).

The only plus point is that BMW apparently has ‘no current plans’ to axe any of its 4,300 permanent staff – those who normally work weekends will be redeployed to other shifts, and some ‘surplus’ staff in its Swindon plant will be offered jobs at Cowley. Small mercies, and all that...

In today's bulletin:
Weekend woes as BMW cuts 850 Mini staff
Lloyds hammered again amid nationalisation fears
KFC to create 9,000 jobs
NEDs getting more bread
The Sharp End: Postman dings twice

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