Nick Chaffey, Southern Socialist Party secretary
By a huge 93%, car workers at BMW, producing the Mini and Rolls-Royce, have voted to strike for eight days in defence of their final salary pension scheme. Despite massing profits of £5.89 billion, in a time of growing economic and political uncertainty, employers are looking to defend their profits at the expense of workers.
This is the first ever strike at BMW in the UK but comes after years of growing volatility following the great recession of 2007-8. The unfolding crisis in the car industry saw mass layoffs, including 850 BMW agency workers at Cowley in 2009, sacked with one hour’s notice.
Now workers stand to lose up to £160,000 of their retirement income as BMW plans to close the final salary pension scheme on 31 May. The strikes will take place at Oxford, Swindon, Hams Hall in Warwickshire and Goodwood near Chichester.
These strikes take place alongside similar pension strikes and disputes in the private sector. Currently workers at the Atomic Weapons Establishment are taking a further eight days of strike action in defence of their pension scheme.
The recent deal at steelmaker Tata saw workers forced to accept attacks on their pensions to ‘save’ jobs in this age of austerity.
At the same time the government is continuing attacks on workers by raising the age of retirement. This strike at BMW represents an important stand by car workers unprepared to pay the price for an economic crisis they did not cause.
There is an urgent need to bring together all the attacks workers are facing on pensions, pay, jobs and benefits in a campaign of coordinated strike action that could force an early general election and an end to Tory austerity!