Workers at BMW’s plant in Oxford, which produces the Mini, are being threatened with being unpaid as a result of the company’s refusal to use the furlough scheme to cover wages during the ongoing COVID-related semiconductor stoppages.

Global shortage

The problem is a result of the global shortage in semiconductors, which are a critical element in the production of new vehicles. Due to the shortages BMW, like most major car manufacturers, has on occasion been forced to temporarily halt production of the Mini.

However, although the semiconductor shortage is directly related to the Covid-19 pandemic, BMW has decided that it will not use the government’s job retention scheme to furlough workers and ensure they are paid during such stoppages.

Conditions under threat

Instead the company is looking to alter existing collective agreements, which will weaken workers’ terms and conditions.

BMW has said that unless Unite, which represents the workforce at the Cowley plant, agrees to the changes to existing collective agreements, the workers will be unpaid. This is despite BMW having emphasised on numerous occasions that they are highly profitable, have a full order book and that it is only the COVID-related stoppages that are stopping production.

Semiconductor shortage

Unite regional officer Scott Kemp said: “BMW is attempting to use the semiconductor shortage to undermine the existing terms and conditions of its workforce.

 “Unite has been attempting to resolve this problem through negotiation, currently without success.

 “Unite urges BMW to reconsider its position on furlough and to return to the negotiating table on this issue and agree a deal which is fair to its dedicated workforce who produce a world class product.”

Reprehensible behaviour

Unite national officer for the automotive sector Steve Bush said: “BMW’s decision not to use the government’s furlough scheme and instead threatening workers with being unpaid, for a problem which is a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic, is reprehensible.

 “BMW will not be allowed to use the Covid-19 pandemic as cover to cut the terms and conditions of its workforce.

 “The workforce and their families have been left confused and angry that they are facing being unpaid and struggling to make ends meet, when furlough is available for exactly these reasons.”


Notes to editors:

During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

Email: [email protected]

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.