Mini workers threaten strike over tea breaks
No, we haven't slipped back in time to 1978. There really is a threat of a strike at BMW's Mini plant in Cowley.
97% of workers called for a strike in a consultation by the unions, and there is now an official strike ballot planned.
The root of the argument is BMW's latest pay offer. BMW says it is a 6% rise, which would be extraordinarily generous, if true. The unions say it is a 2.2% rise, with the rest of the money being conditional - Unite official Roger Maddison claims that "there are more strings to this deal than a puppet show."
It appears that a further 1.8% of the rise is dependent on a reduction of 11 minutes a day in tea breaks on an 11 hour shift (equivalent to 30 hours per year) with the final 2% coming from team bonuses.
Talks will now continue to avert the first strike at the plant since 1984, when it was owned by Rover.
Although the UK motor industry has transformed its industrial relations over the last 20 years, this is not the first trouble at the BMW plant. In 2009, 850 agency workers were made redundant, allegedly with just one hour's notice when the company cut production at the start of the recession. BMW said they would be paid a week's notice, but many were furious that, after working for up to three or four years at the plant, they were made redundant just as their shift came to an end, and told not to return to the factory. There were angry scenes at the plant.