Angry Mini workers pelted union leaders with fruit after 850 jobs were axed and all weekend shifts scrapped
Union sources said workers had thrown fruit at managers but BMW denied the claim. A spokesman said: "No BMW managers addressed the workers. I have confirmation that the fruit was thrown at union representatives."
Union representatives were shown on mobile phones being abused by disgruntled workers who accused them of not doing enough to prevent job losses.
All those axed were temporary workers contracted by Manpower, the employment organisation, for the Cowley work.
BMW faced heavy criticism from union leaders over the way it had handled the redundancies. Tony Woodley, joint general secretary of Unite, said: “The manner in which these cuts were announced today was disgraceful. Sacking an entire shift like this and targeting agency workers who have no rights to redundancy pay, is blatant opportunism on BMW’s part and nothing short of scandalous.”
Prime Minister Gordon Brown's spokesman said: "This is very disappointing news and all I can say really is the Government is doing and will do all that we can to help those affected."
The spokesman added that a rescue package for the car industry which was announced recently was still being implemented.
BMW's Swindon plant, which produces Mini body panels and employs 1,000, is not affected by the cutback but 150 workers have been asked to transfer to the Cowley production line.
The BMW engine plant at Hams Hall also escape cuts. The plant, employing 1,000 workers, produces 300,000 engines a year for the Mini and BMW cars in Germany.
The cuts come as the company stops producing cars at the Cowley factory for a week in response to falling motor sales caused by the recession.
Production will not restart production until February 23, with all staff at the factory, including remaining agency workers, being paid their basic wages during the closure.
A Mini spokesperson confirmed that the company had held discussions with Unite union representatives over changes to shift patterns at the plant.
A statement said: "While Mini has been weathering the economic downturn, it is not immune from the challenges of the current situation.
"Against this backdrop the company felt that a review of its shift patterns was necessary. This decision has not been taken lightly. The plant's union representatives have, of course, been involved in the discussions."
The company's 4,500 staff had returned to work on January 5 after an extended four-week Christmas holiday. In December, 300 agency staff were told there would be no more work for them at the plant after the Christmas holiday.
Derek Simpson, joint leader of the union Unite, said the cuts at Mini showed how the recession was affecting the industry, as BMW was a "hugely profitable" firm and Cowley was an efficient factory.
"There is a huge onus on the Government to take drastic action to support the motor industry and to encourage people to buy cars.
The announcement is more grim news to the car industry which has laid off thousands of workers in recent weeks.
The Mini celebrates its 50th anniversary in August of this year.