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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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Mini workers threaten strikes after claims of being denied loo breaks

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Thousands of Mini workers are threatening to strike over a “strings attached” pay deal as it also emerged that they were facing shorter breaks and had to “ask permission” to go to the toilet.

Unions have already balloted almost 2,000 of their members who work at the BMW-owned plant in Oxford over what the car manufacturer claims is a 6% pay rise.
 
In a move that could lead to the first industrial action at the site for 30 years, a huge 97% of those balloted rejected the firm’s offer.
 
But the Unite union disputed BMW’s figure, attesting that it amounted to a basic pay increase of only 2.21%. An extra 1.79% depended on staff working an extra 30.1 hours each year, while a further 2% team bonus represented just 1.3% of salary for most of the workforce, it said.
 
Unite’s national officer Roger Maddison continued: “There are more strings to this deal than a puppet show. More and more productivity demands are being made by BMW. Rather than try to claw back every penny it can, BMW should be treating its workforce with dignity.”
 
The car manufacturer is also demanding that staff accept an 11-minute reduction in paid leave during their morning and afternoon breaks, which currently last 26 and 27 minutes respectively, he added.
 
But an outraged employee told The Times that if staff needed to go to the toilet during their shift, “you have to put up your hand. Sometimes, they are relieved by the team leader, sometimes not. We have had instances of people having to go in the dustbin”.
 
A BMW spokesperson refuted the claims, however. He told the Daily Mail that plant Oxford staff had the longest paid breaks within the BMW Group.
 
“Employees work on a moving production line, which is stopped during dedicated break times,” the spokesman said. “We have systems in place to ensure that anyone needing to use the bathroom outside of these breaks can do so while another team member fills in for them.”
 
He added that there was “absolutely no evidence” that dustbins were being used “for anything other than their intended purpose”.
 
Moreover, the company found the rejection of its pay offer “disappointing”, although a date had now been set to restart negotiations with the union, the spokesman said.
Author Profile Picture
Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more from Cath Everett
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