WORKERS at BMW’s plant in Oxford, which produces the Mini, are being threatened with going without pay.

Trade union Unite has said this is as a result of the company’s refusal to use the furlough scheme to cover wages during the ongoing Covid-related semiconductor stoppages.

The problem is a result of the global shortage in semiconductors, which are a critical element in the production of new vehicles.

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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 crisis, the company has now decided that it will not use the Government’s job retention scheme to furlough workers and ensure they are paid during such stoppages.

Instead, the company is looking to change existing collective agreements, which, Unite argues, will weaken workers' terms and conditions.

BMW has said that unless the union, which represents the workforce at the Cowley plant, agrees to the changes to existing collective agreements, the workers will go unpaid.

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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."

A spokesperson for BMW confirmed that as a result of the global lack of availability of semiconductor components - an issue that has been affecting the entire automotive industry for several month - it has been necessary for the Cowley plant to stand down a number of production shifts. 

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This happened three times in the last two weeks and is due to happen again today, tomorrow and next week.

The spokesperson commented: "BMW Group was surprised to read the press release from Unite, as the company is in advanced negotiations with the union regarding potential arrangements to ensure that the monthly base pay of associates is maintained during these current stand downs, including those that have already taken place.

"It is anticipated these negotiations will be concluded in the near future and details of what is agreed will be communicated by the end of this week at the very latest."