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Germany

As Business Booms For BMW, Workers May Lose Paid Breaks

In order to maximize profits, the German automaker wants to eliminate paid 15-minute breaks for its workforce.

BMW Munich HQ and Leipzig plant
BMW Munich HQ and Leipzig plant
Thomas Fromm

MUNICH Due to poor sales in Europe, there are some car manufacturers right now mainly focused on survival. Others, thanks to great sales in the United States and China, are focused on maximizing profits; one of them is BMW.

Last year the Munich firm made a record profit of 5.3 billion euros. And as BMW boss Norbert Reithofer said in a recent interview, maximizing those profits is the central focus. In the first quarter alone, the operating margin was 9.5%, meaning that the company, which had set an objective between 8% and 10%, is right where it wants to be: so profitable that it recently paid out a share on earnings amounting to an average of 8,000 euros to every employee.

In this light, the latest news on the human resources front seems particularly harsh. In order to save millions in its Bavarian factories without cutting jobs, a savings program is being planned that includes no longer paying for two daily 15-minute breaks.

Beauty contest

These longstanding pauses are presently considered to be part of working time and are paid for by the company. In what a BMW spokesperson calls an "ongoing process," the plan to no longer consider the breaks part of work time has now been presented to labor representatives for discussion. The spokesman said the move was aimed at "ensuring the competiveness of each individual factory."

BMW is targeting 5% growth in production per year. How each site is evaluated is important when decisions are taken as to which factory may produce which model of car — a decision that is taken centrally. The companies refer to it as the "beauty contest": the most beautiful (i.e. least costly and most efficient) factory wins.

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