Page last updated at 07:41 GMT, Friday, 5 December 2008

Mini agency staff on final shifts

Minis on the production line
The Christmas shut-down at the plant has been extended to four weeks

Almost 300 agency staff are working their final shifts at Oxford's Mini production plant.

Production at the site is to stop on Sunday for an extended Christmas break due to a fall in sales.

Permanent staff are due to return to work on 5 January but the factory's 290 agency employees have been told not to come back.

All staff at the plant, including agency workers, will be paid their basic wages over the shutdown.

BMW has said it is responding to economic conditions. Mini sales in the UK are down 58% this month.

Its casual staff are employed through two agencies, Manpower and Right 4 Staff.

Nadmeldin Karamalla, who works at the plant, said he is worried about how he is going to buy Christmas presents this year.

"It's come at just the wrong time for me and my family. I don't want to tell my children that I've just lost my job."

I'm looking for a part time job - any job
Khuran Fhahzad

Matthew Jones, who has been at the factory for more than one year, said: "I had only a week's notice that I'd lose my job. Although I don't have a family, I still have loans and bills to pay."

Agency staff are not entitled to redundancy payments, which many believe is unfair.

Rob Ball, managing director of recruitment company Right 4 Staff, said he is doing all he can to find jobs for staff who have been laid off.

"We've got two sales teams working on behalf of the people at BMW. But it's difficult in the current economic climate, especially since we're coming up to Christmas."

In a statement, BMW told BBC Oxford that its agency staff are an important part of its overall workforce mix.

It said that it is responding to a downturn in sales. Both BMW and Mini have seen their sales drop dramatically, and the total UK car market is 11% down this year.

Many permanent staff are also looking for jobs over the festive period, when they will miss out on the chance to work overtime due to the four-week break.

"I have to pay my mortgage and bills so I'll be driving a taxi over the shut down period," said Amad Hassan.

"I'm looking for a part time job - any job," said Khuran Fhahzad. "We never know what's going to happen after the Christmas break."

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