Workers at BMW's UK Mini plant in Oxford have overwhelmingly rejected a pay offer from BMW and are threatening strike action, although the German automaker hotly contests union claims the deal has "more strings than a puppet show."

The Unite union balloted almost 2,000 workers at the Cowley site and maintains 97% rejected what it claims was a basic pay increase of "just" 2.21% - a position BMW flatly rejects maintaining it has offered a 4% base increase and 2% rise in variable pay by what it terms a "team bonus."

Negotiations are due to resume although the German automaker is remaining coy as to what date these will occur. "A date has been set for negotiations to recommence," a BMW spokeswoman told just-auto.

"It is important both the company and the unions - while we are looking to return to the negotiating table - that [date] needs to be confidential."

BMW also declined to be drawn on comparisons between its UK Mini plant and working conditions and terms in Germany, maintaining the plant shift patterns were completely different.

There has been speculation also surrounding the issue of BMW's paid breaks although the manufacturer insists Plant Oxford has the longest such pauses in the German Group.

Despite the potential of fresh talks however, Unite says it will press ahead with preparations for an industrial action ballot while talks start.

"There are more strings to this deal than a puppet show and the workers at BMW will not accept it," said Unite national officer, Roger Maddison "The truth is BMW has made a pay offer of just over 2%, the rest of the deal comes with significant strings attached.

"The union never closed the door on talks and we are happy to get back around the table but we are also making preparations to ballot our members for strike action. The majority of the workforce works 11 hour shifts, and more and more productivity demands are being made by BMW.  Rather than try to claw back every penny it can, BMW should be treating its workforce with dignity."