Page last updated at 17:00 GMT, Monday, 16 February 2009

Sacked Mini workers express anger

Reaction from workers to the job losses

The economic crisis had not escaped the attention of agency workers at BMW's Mini factory in Cowley, Oxford; they knew times were tough and their jobs were under threat.

But what they did not expect as they turned up as usual for work on Monday was to be sacked at short notice. Several of the 850 who lost their jobs have told the BBC of their anger, confusion and despair.

Michael East, who has worked at the plant for three years, told the BBC he was afraid about what would happen to him now, especially as he has a two-year-old son to support.

"There's no work in Oxford. There's no work and it's very worrying," he said.

"I've got my own house, I've got payments to keep up with that I'll not be able to make, I don't know what's going to happen to me and my family.

"I really don't know and it's very scary."

'National disgrace'

Many of the agency workers were extremely angry at the manner in which the news was delivered.

Russell Hager told the BBC he had seen the sackings coming, but was still shocked at how the situation had been handled.

"It's the unfairness of the way people are treated in large corporations such as BMW," he said.

These are workers like you and I who have got families and commitments
Tony Woodley, Unite union

"Why is it allowed to happen that people like myself go to work, give the company fairness, loyalty, commitment, and try to build a better life for [themselves], then half an hour later they can just be told, 'You haven't got a job any more'?"

Tony Woodley, joint secretary of the Unite union, said the sacking of the Mini workers was a "national disgrace" and agency staff were being treated as "second class citizens".

"This kind of action would be illegal in Germany," Mr Woodley said.

"BMW is guilty of blatant opportunism by sacking workers on the cheap. It has got to be stopped.

"These aren't just temporary workers - these are workers like you and I who have got families and commitments.

"They've been loyal, decent, dedicated and they get called in with an hour's notice to say that after four or five years they are going to be cast aside like cannon fodder.

"It can't be right."

'So upset'

Silvia Fernandes worked at the plant for four years; she says she feels betrayed by the suddenness of the news.

She told the BBC: "In this meeting they told us we'd all been sacked because of the credit crunch. But actually we already knew some of us would have to go, that was a fact of course because of the crisis - but what we never expected from BMW was knowing one hour before [our shift].

"I've never been sick, I've never missed work and they tell me one hour before that I've been sacked. That's not on. That's why people are angry and so upset with BMW and with the union."

John Cunningham worked at the factory for over two years. He says he does not yet know what he will do next.

Mr Cunningham told the BBC: "I feel betrayed, they've planned this for months and we've only just been told - one hour's notice. We've been given a week's pay for an enforced week off which I suppose is a week's notice.

"If I have to sign on to benefits that makes that increasingly difficult so I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet."



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