Defined Benefit  

BMW workers to strike over DB scheme closure

BMW workers to strike over DB scheme closure

BMW workers have voted to go on strike over the firm's plan to close its defined benefit pension scheme to future accruals. 

Unite, the union representing UK employees of the German automaker, said voters had "overwhelmingly backed" industrial action.

It said 93 per cent of those voting in the ballots backed strike action, with a turnout of 72 per cent across the sites in Cowley, Goodwood, Hams Hall and Swindon.

It claimed members stood to lose out on up to £160,000 in retirement income as a result of the planned changes.

The union stated that dates for strike action, which could involve up to 3,500 workers, were yet to be set, and urged the company to enter "meaningful talks over affordable options to keep the pension scheme open".

The union noted that BMW Group’s net profit rose 8 per cent in the last year to €6.9bn, and that it had achieved record Mini sales as well as a six per cent rise in Roll-Royce sales.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “BMW needs to reflect on this extraordinary vote in favour of industrial action and the real possibility that its UK workforce will strike for the first time under its ownership in the coming weeks.

“It won’t be a step which will be taken lightly, but the vote in favour of action shows a determination by workers who have contributed massively to BMW’s record revenues to stand up for their pensions."

A BMW spokesperson said the firm had "always prided itself in providing excellent pensions for its staff and wants to act now to protect future pension provision for its UK workforce".

The spokesperson went on: "The company has had a number of planned meetings on the proposed changes since the start of the consultation process in September last year, and while it is disappointed by the result of the ballot it remains open to negotiation."

The vote to strike comes two weeks after workers at Royal Mail attempted to dissuade their employer from shutting the DB scheme to future accrual.

Rather than striking, though, they proposed the company set up a hybrid DB-DC scheme, which would see member and employer sharing the risk.

Some experts, however, were sceptical about the viability of the scheme. Independent consultant John Ralfe urged unions to accept that DB was "dead", and focus instead on getting the best DC deal they could.

james.fernyhough@ft.com