PENSIONS ROBBERY – Rolls-Royce strike today

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ROLLS-ROYCE workers walk out on strike this morning as the struggle over the great ‘pensions robbery’ escalates.

3,500 car workers across the German car giant’s plants in Oxford, Sussex, Swindon and Birmingham are determined to defend their final salary pension schemes. Today’s 24-hour strike is the fourth out of eight 24-hour strikes across April and May over BMW’s plans to close the final salary pension scheme.

The car company plans to close the pension scheme on 31 May, which union Unite says could mean some workers losing up to £160,000 in retirement income. Unite national officer for BMW, Fred Hanna, said: ‘Unite members at BMW have shown a clear determination to defend their pensions. The industrial action to date has brought production of the iconic Mini to a halt and severely disrupted engine production lines.

‘This has not been a step taken lightly by our members who take great pride in producing world beating engines and the world class motorcars which have powered BMW’s record profits and sales.’

The fifth strike takes place on Tuesday 16 May where workers at Cowley, Goodwood, Hams Hall and Swindon all come out on strike together. Steve Sargeant, the deputy plant convenor at the Cowley site, told News Line yesterday: ‘There is solidarity across Oxford. The feeling of support is strong.

‘On the last strike, there were in excess of 1,000 people demonstrating throughout the day and there was good local support and many cars tooting their horns. Our next strike dates are Tuesday May 16th and Thursday May 18th. The loss of the final salary pension scheme would mean the loss of hundreds of thousands of pounds for people.

‘When BMW bought the plant they bought the pay and conditions and pensions of the workforce.

‘But now workers are getting their pensions transferred over to another scheme, but it is nowhere near what the final salary scheme is.

‘Particularly older people who have loyally worked for the plant for twenty, thirty or even going on forty years, BMW is pulling the rug from under them. They were expecting to retire with a degree of comfort and now the changes could lead to poverty.

‘BMW is making these changes against people’s will: we had 93% support in a ballot to take industrial action and we as a union are calling it pension robbery. The company has to come to the table and talk. We want the scheme to be kept open and talk about how to resolve it. So far, they refused to talk about keeping the scheme open.

‘We have a strong mandate from our workforce and we will abide by what the members tell us and they want to fight. That is what they are telling us. This is one of the most important decisions that they will come across on the factory floor. Their pension is something that they have worked for and are entitled to.’

The last four of the eight BMW 24-hour strike dates are:

• Tuesday 16 May – workers at Cowley, Goodwood, Hams Hall and Swindon strike

• Thursday 18 May – workers at Cowley, Goodwood, Hams Hall and Swindon strike

• Sunday 21 May – workers at Cowley and Swindon strike

• Wednesday 24 May – workers at Goodwood and Hams Hall strike.