The British Car Industry

Amongst other things, I am a member of what was the Transport and General Workers' Union, now subsumed into Unite. In fact, I am a branch unto myself. I have received an email from the dual monarchy at the top of the Union (hence the Austrian flag), and, despite my apparent levity, I would ask you if you were remotely sympathetic to pass it on. We throw money at worthless bankers and yet throw working people on the scrapheap in this country when they're done, and its wrong. Here's the message;

Dear Colleague,

I am writing as I need your help.

BMWs decision to sack 850 agency employees, giving many of them only an hours’ notice and with no intention to offer any of them a penny in redundancy pay, is an act of sheer industrial brutality.

While we know there are difficulties in the motor industry worldwide at the moment this is no way to deal with them. Some of these workers have been employed at the plant for several years, something which is itself an abuse of agency working arrangements. The villain is BMW, putting profitability before people and we need to have a united response to this crisis.

To help build this united response please sign our petition:

Agency workers at Cowley have been treated disgracefully. But the union understands the fears of permanent employees losing income. Protecting the jobs, pay and conditions of ALL workers at the plant is Unite’s priority.

The first thing the union is saying in response to the company’s behaviour is simple – you’re not on. Unite is not going to accept any of these sackings until we have had proper discussions with the company about its difficulties. As we wrote to BMW chairman Dr Reithofer this week “you would not treat a dog in this way, never mind loyal and committed employees.”

Unite has been working flat out since mid-November with government to find ways to support the car industry and your jobs through the current slump. Clearly, additional serious and sizeable state support is needed, including state funding for shorter-time working as an alternative to lay-offs. Ministers are responding to this message, if not as fast as we would like.

Cowley workers – agency or permanent – are not going to be made to carry the can for the crisis. We are not going to accept the dismissal of a single one without proper negotiation and agreement. And for those who do end up being laid off, Unite expects BMW to live up to its social responsibilities and pay proper redundancy terms.

Yours sincerely,

Derek Simpson & Tony Woodley

Joint General Secretaries
Unite the union


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