WORKERS at Oxford’s Cowley Mini plant are to receive an inflation-busting pay rise.

The two-year deal will see more than 4,000 employees and agency staff receive 3.7 per cent in the first 12 months, with a further 0.3 per cent on top of the retail price index figure – currently two per cent – in the second year.

It takes the salary of the average worker on the line to £26,944, a rise of £900. The increase, which will come into effect in May, will be backdated to January.

Union leaders were last night celebrating the deal after starting talks with management last October.

Plant Unite union convenor Chris Bond said: “We are pleased with the outcome but it is only what the workforce deserve.

“They work hard and are very flexible. It is recognition from the company for the extra effort they put in.”

Mr Bond added the initial offer from BMW management had been in line with inflation, which was about 2.8 per cent at the time, although that figure has now fallen to 1.7 per cent.

Several offers were then put on the table before the new deal was finally presented to the membership.

A total of 77.1 per cent of the membership voted in favour of the deal following a ballot of about 1,700 workers.

The deal was revealed as workers at the plant swiched to a new shift system from yesterday.

There are now three shifts of seven-and-half hours each intead of two shifts which saw workers operating for than 11 hours at a time.

The new shifts, agreed by workers more than a year ago, are shorter than any previously seen at the plant.

Mr Bond said: “We are preparing for a ramp-up in production.

“We can’t produce enough cars at the moment, which is a good thing. We are under pressure, but it is a good sort of pressure – we just need to get as many cars out as we can.”

BMW spokesman Wayne Morse said: “We are also delighted that the two-year pay deal, which was recommended jointly by the plant and the union, has been accepted by the workforce.

“The new three-shift pattern came into effect on Monday. It follows the launch of the new Mini hatchback and allows the plant to better match production with demand.”