BMW defies union over American plant: Adrian Bridge and Larry Black report on opposition to the car maker's plan to keep down wages at its new US factory

THE German car maker BMW is determined to press ahead with plans to go without union representation at its plant to be built in South Carolina, despite fierce protests from IG Metall, Germany's largest trade union.

Werner Rothfuss, a BMW spokesman, said that local conditions in South Carolina were 'not suited' to trade union activity and that the company wanted to deal directly with the workforce there.

'We do not need the interference of a third party or a trade union in the process,' he said.

He conceded, however, that if the workforce, which should eventually number 2,000, elected to work under the umbrella of a union, the company would probably not block it. 'We will, of course, comply with the local laws,' he said.

The dispute over the new BMW plant, which was announced in June, erupted last week. In a terse letter to Eberhard von Kunheim, BMW's chairman, Klaus Zwickel, IG Metall's deputy president, said that the union would fight to ensure that employees at the plant would be allowed to organise themselves under union protection. IG Metall plans to work closely with the United Automobile Workers union in the US during the construction phase of the plant, which starts next year.

Dagmar Opoczynske, an IG Metall spokeswoman, said: 'We have a history of forcing German firms who set up abroad to work with local unions and we do not intend to make an exception here. If BMW was allowed to get away with it in South Carolina, they would try it on everywhere.'

South Carolina is a so-called 'right-to- work' state with one of the lowest rates of unionisation in the US. In Germany, BMW's labour costs, including benefits, are about 43 marks (about pounds 15) an hour; in South Carolina, they will be at least one- third lower, analysts say.

In Germany, BMW would be unable legally to exclude unionisation in a new factory or to bar union representatives on oversight committees which have power to influence company policy.

Dan Stillman, spokesman for the American car workers' union, said BMW was creating a double-standard by opposing unionisation. The company works with unions everywhere else it operates and 95 per cent of American car assembly plants are unionised.

'It's irrational,' said Mr Stillman, 'It's one thing to have lower costs than in Germany, but another to have them lower than the rest of the US industry.'

The only big non-union factories in the US are three Japanese 'transplants' operated by Honda, Nissan and Toyota. Volkswagen co-operated with the union when it opened an assembly plant in Pennsylvania in 1979, but closed it after its US-made cars won a reputation for poor quality.

More recently, Freightliner, the heavy truck division of Daimler-Benz attempted to circumvent unionisation when it opened a factory two years ago in North Carolina. But the UAW, with the help of the trade union at Mercedes, eventually won the right to represent the workers and negotiated 'an excellent contract' with the German owner, according to Mr Stillman.

'We fully intend to organise the BMW plant in Spartanburg,' he said.

BMW hopes to be producing more than 300 cars a day at the plant from 1995, eventually employing 2,000 workers. The company says its main aim is to boost its sales in the US which, having reached almost 100,000 in 1986, slumped to 53,000 last year.

people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
voicesBy the man who has
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

Trust Accountant - Kent

NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

Graduate Recruitment Consultant - 2013/14 Grads - No Exp Needed

£18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £30000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

Law Costs

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - Law Costs Draftsperson - NICHE...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?