BMW’s plan to get its Rover workers to take on flexible working time accounts could inspire a wave of similar deals throughout the engineering sector.
The accounts, increasingly popular among German engineers, let employees ‘bank’ overtime to take as time off when production is slack, and have the effect of cutting overtime costs.
BMW, one of the pioneers of this kind of flexible system in Germany, wants to bring the system into play at Rover, to boost productivity.
The German engineering sector has already embraced the principle, with many firms having negotiated deals with their workers.
In Britain, Peugeot has brought in a variation of the scheme at its Coventry car plant where the new 206 model is built. This works with an annualised contract of 1,755 hours for each worker, a fixed contract of 200 hours overtime, and variable shifts of between four and five days a week.
‘Other British companies are extremely interested in this kind of scheme,’ said a Peugeot spokesman.
Industry watchers in Germany see flexible schemes as a growing trend in engineering. ‘In smaller firms, where the staff are aware of the need to stay competitive, these schemes have been implemented without any problem,’ said Peter Metzger, director of European Equity Research at the stockbroker Salomon Smith Barney in Frankfurt.
Experts predict that talks on more flexible hours could take off in this country next year particularly among suppliers linked with large seasonal variations in demand