Page last updated at 16:38 GMT, Thursday, 19 February 2009

Workers 'treated with contempt'

Minis on the production line
A total of 850 agency jobs were cut after shift changes

A union leader has accused BMW of showing "utter contempt" for the 850 workers laid off at Oxford's Mini plant on Monday.

The agency staff were sacked with immediate effect after their shift when weekend working was scrapped.

Tony Woodley, joint leader of Unite, has written a letter of complaint to BMW's management board.

A spokeswoman from BMW said: "No time is a good time to inform people of a decision of this nature."

She added: "Together with the plant's union representatives, the company had unfortunately exhausted all other opportunities to deal with the current market situation.

"The weekend shift was given one week's paid notice including holiday pay.

You would not treat a dog this way, never mind loyal and committed employees
Tony Woodley, Unite

"Communication was at 0530 GMT on 16 February i.e. one hour before the end of the shift, but with a paid notice period of one week."

She added: "There will still be some agency associates working at the plant - around 126 in total."

Mr Woodley wrote: "You have treated your workforce with utter contempt.

"The difficulties of the car industry globally are well known but the manner in which BMW has sought to address the reduction of its volumes at the Cowley plant is nothing short of disgraceful.

"You would not treat a dog this way, never mind loyal and committed employees."

Mr Woodley claimed hundreds of workers were still uncertain about their future.

He said 330 workers were dismissed on Monday, but 520 were unclear about whether they should return to work next week.

The plant is currently in the middle of a week-long shutdown and will not re-open until 23 February.

When work resumes, the plant will go from a three-shift to a two-shift pattern and only operate five days per week instead of seven.

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