BUSINESS Editor Andrew Smith asked plant union convenor Bernard Moss, pictured, the key questions surrounding yesterday’s BMW crisis...

What is your view on the redundancies?

It is a sad day and the worst for me since 1992 when we effectively closed the old South Works and got rid of 3,000 people. The big difference at that time was that most went out on voluntary redundancies and the 325 that were made redundant left with generous packages. There were no agency staff at the time. Now, under employment law, agency staff were not entitled to these rights.

Is there anything the union could have done to prevent these job losses?

We held meetings about three weeks ago and said to the workforce they could either stay as they were and have the same stand-downs — or possibly double the number there had been in 2008 — or they could go for the shift change with lower volumes and possible job losses.

They voted overwhelmingly for a change of shift.

The problem we had was that we were under clear instruction we could not give out any information until the company said so.

That caused a lot of concern from the workforce over the last couple of weeks.

Although we are a trade union, we are employed by the company. If they give out an instruction, it would be a brave person to defy that. These days not many people would support a shop steward if he was sacked.

What has the union’s role been in the negotiations?

We have negotiated the new shifts. The weekend shift has had a good run since 2001 — the weekend shift at Peugeot only lasted about three years.

Nothing is forever, the volumes are now lower.

Last year, we produced 237,000 cars, now the volumes are about 180,000.

Have you won any concessions from management?

The biggest concern agency workers had was they would be working the last weekend for nothing as the company would take back the hours they owed through the working time account from their pay. We got the concession that any hours owed above 33 for the weekend shift and 37 for the weekday shift would be written off.

Why were the workers given so little notice of the announcement?

They have actually been given a week’s notice, but because of the shutdown it seems like they were only given an hour. That was not agreed with the company — we asked them to give a longer period of notice.

Why could they not have been told sooner?

It is not my job to try to justify why the bosses did what they did.

Can you do anything for the workers who have been made redundant?

I am aware Oxford East MP Andrew Smith has been involved with Job Centre Plus and also pushing an initiative introduced in Germany to encourage people to buy new cars.

How do you respond to criticism from the shop floor that the union has been weak and is in the pocket of the management?

I don’t accept that. We have negotiated 1,400 full-time contracts, pay increases which match those of BMW elsewhere and represented workers in disciplinary matters. But the whole nature of agency labour means we cannot have flexibility. There is only a limited amount we can do for these people.

Would the union have responded differently in the 1970s?

I don’t think so as there were some massive redundancies. We had more power because we had the backing of the membership, but here the membership meetings voted overwhelmingly for a shift change.

Will there be any more redundancies among the full-time staff?

I hope not, but at this stage I can’t say.