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More than 200 Bentley workers used their 30-minute lunch break last week to protest silently outside the factory in Crewe, England, over pay and work conditions. Protests held last Monday and Thursday were over the company’s proposed 4.5 percent pay increase for 2011 and a new stipulation allowing managers to give a two-hour notice to employees to work extra hours or on Friday if production targets are not met. The factory’s staff currently works 37 hours between Monday and Thursday. Besides the increase in work hours, Bentley employees say the rise in the country’s Value Added Tax (VAT) starting in January and an increase in contributions for the National Insurance will make the 4.5 percent pay raise negligible.

A couple hundred of the 3,500-person workforce plans to protest every week; the protests are unofficial because they have not been union organized. Bentley says they are still in negotiation with the Unite union and that nothing has become official.

Despite some unhappiness in Bentley’s ranks, the luxury brand is doing better than in 2009, when it implemented a 10 percent reduction in pay and a staggered production schedule due to a drop in demand. Bentley allowed employees to “bank” lost hours for use during a later more-prosperous time. Production numbers show an increase of 30 percent in the number of cars sold this year compared to the same period in 2009.


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