Workers at BMW’s Mini plant in Oxford have overwhelmingly rejected a ‘strings attached’ pay offer, raising the prospect of the first strike since 1984.
In a consultative ballot of almost 2,000 workers, 97 per cent rejected the company’s attempt to force the majority of the workforce to accept a basic pay increase of just 2.21 per cent.
The remaining elements of the deal included an increase of 1.79 per cent for working an extra 30.1 hours a year.
But rather than giving the workers the choice on whether or not to sell the extra hours which make up part of their rest period, BMW is making it compulsory.
The company is also claiming it is offering a two per cent team bonus but Unite says the most the majority of the workforce can earn is 1.3 per cent of salary.
Following the outcome of the consultative ballot the company offered further talks which the union welcomed.
However the union will continue to press ahead with preparations for an industrial action ballot while talks get underway.
Unite national officer, Roger Maddison said: ‘There are more strings to this deal than a puppet show and the workers at BMW will not accept it.
‘The truth is that BMW has made a pay offer of just over two per cent, the rest of the deal comes with significant strings attached.
‘The union never closed the door on talks and we are happy to get back around the table but we are also making preparations to ballot our members for strike action.
‘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.’
The German-owned luxury carmaker’s onslaught on workers’ pay and conditions comes at the same time as it has posted record quarterly sales for the first three months of the year, a period in which it sold more cars in China than in the US for the first time.
Overall sales hit 425,528 vehicles, a rise of 11.2% on a year earlier, with the BMW, Rolls-Royce and Mini brands all reporting record sales.
The company sold 80,014 cars in China, 37% more than a year ago.
BMW said it expected record sales to continue throughout this year.
‘The BMW Group achieved an all-time high in sales last month and the best quarter in its history,’ said sales boss Ian Robertson.
The carmaker is due to publish its first quarter financial results on 3 May.
In 2011, BMW profits jumped by 51% to 4.9bn euros ($6.4bn; £4bn).
On Tuesday, rival Audi, which is owned by Volkswagen, said it had sold 346,100 cars in the first quarter, an increase of 10.8% on a year earlier.