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BMW workers to strike over pension plan freezes

Trade union Unite announced a series of strikes by BMW workers over plans by the carmaker to freeze its defined benefit plans.

The strike, involving up to 3,500 workers, follows a 93% vote in favor of the action by workers across four U.K. locations.

BMW is proposing to freeze its two U.K. pension plans June 1, affecting about 5,000 workers. Its latest annual report showed U.K. DB assets of €8.2 billion ($8.7 billion) as of Dec. 31, with a deficit of €1.2 billion. Participants would instead join BMW’s defined contribution plan, which was launched in early 2014. Further details could not be learned by press time.

A Unite news release said workers have “expressed alarm over BMW’s plans, which could see some U.K. workers lose up to £160,000 ($200,652) in retirement income.”

Len McCluskey, general secretary at Unite, said in the news release: “I urge BMW to step back from its May deadline for the pension scheme’s closure and negotiate seriously to find a settlement which is good for the business and good for the workforce.”

A statement provided by a BMW spokesman said: “A number of planned meetings have taken place since the start of consultation on the proposed pension changes, and the company is disappointed by Unite’s notification of industrial action. The company has put a number of options on the table to help employees transition to the proposed new pension arrangements, and it remains open to negotiation.”

The statement added that BMW has “always prided itself in providing excellent pensions for its staff and wants to act now to protect future pension provision and to help improve the cost competitiveness of the U.K. as a manufacturing base.”