THE Cowley Mini plant is creating 150 new jobs after workers agreed a new shift pattern.

A ballot on two proposed patterns led to a majority vote in favour of the workforce doing three 11-hour shifts in a row and then having two days off in between.

The longer days mean staff will no longer have to work a Saturday shift. But spiralling demand for the car worldwide means more agency workers are required as production increases.

Union bosses are delighted at the move, which will see workers alternate between day and night shifts every two weeks, and the number of agency staff boosted from 600 currently to 750 by May, when the new shift pattern is expected to come in.

Plant convenor Chris Bond said: “What is remarkable is that we have an extra order for 2,000 new cars when we should be on a downturn waiting for the new model.

“The new derivatives have picked up sales – which shows how much people like the car, even in the current economic downturn. And the people BMW needs to thank are the workforce.

“The guys on the line need congratulating. It is their dedication that has brought this about.”

The new shifts will run from 6am-5pm and 5pm-4am, five days a week.

Mr Bond added that for those travelling long distances to the plant, the three-day pattern was preferable to the current four days as it also cut down on fuel costs.

He said: “This will do away with the unpopular Saturday shift until the end of the year as we are putting in more hours every day.”

BMW spokesman Rebecca Baxter said: “Shift patterns need to be flexible as cars are built to order. This new shift pattern allows the company to respond to the requirements of new export markets.

“The new pattern will result in the hire of a number of additional agency workers.”

In June last year, Mini parent firm BMW announced it was investing £500m in Mini over a three-year period, the majority of it being in the Cowley plant.

Last year saw 285,060 cars sold around the world, a rise of almost 22 per cent on 2010.

The most recent figures, for February, show 20,020 sales – 24.8 per cent more than the same month in 2011.

The new Roadster model will go on sale this month, and last week BMW bosses confirmed a new van version of the car, the Clubvan, would be produced at the plant later this year.

Oxford East MP Andrew Smith welcomed the announcement.

He said: “It’s really good news for Oxford that the worldwide demand for Minis continues to grow despite the difficult global economic conditions. It’s especially welcome when this benefits employment at Cowley, with the knock-on boost to the local economy.”