'Great day' for 'incredible Nissan workforce'

Unite welcomes announcement of gigafactory for Sunderland in ‘fantastic first for UK’ — but warns it must not be the last

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Unite hailed automotive giant Nissan’s announcement that it will support the creation of a new battery plant as well as produce a new electric car model in Sunderland.

Unveiling the plans today (July 1) at the Sunderland factory, Nissan management joined Unite’s shop stewards and the Nissan workforce, alongside senior cabinet ministers to celebrate the news.

It is estimated that 750 jobs will be created as a result of the new battery plant, as well as more than 900 jobs with the production of the new electric car model, the Nissan EV36Zero. More than 4,500 jobs will be created in the wider supply chain.

Nissan said it would be investing a total of £1bn, of which £423bn will go into manufacturing the all-electric EV36Zero, following on from the success of its other electric model, the Nissan Leaf.

Nissan is partnering with Sunderland City Council and Envision AESC, the battery technology firm which will build the battery plant, also known as a gigafactory. It is estimated that the factory, which is set to be up and running by 2024, will eventually produce enough batteries to power 100,000 Nissan vehicles each year.

With the gigafactory situated by the Sunderland plant, Nissan said this will create an electric vehicle (EV) ‘hub’ – the first of its kind – that will serve as blueprint for the future of automotive manufacturing.

Commenting, Nissan president and CEO Makoto Uchida said, “This project comes as part of Nissan’s pioneering efforts to achieve carbon neutrality throughout the entire lifecycle of our products.

“Our comprehensive approach includes not only the development and production of EVs, but also the use of on-board batteries as energy storage and their reuse for secondary purposes,” he added.

“Our announcement today comes out of lengthy discussions held within our teams, and will greatly accelerate our efforts in Europe to achieve carbon neutrality,” Uchida continued. “The experience and know-how gained through the project announced today will be shared globally, enhancing Nissan’s global competitiveness.”

Meanwhile, prime minister Boris Johnson said, “Nissan’s announcement to build its new-generation all-electric vehicle in Sunderland, alongside a new gigafactory from Envision AESC, is a major vote of confidence in the UK and our highly skilled workers in the North East.”

Johnson called the announcement a “pivotal moment in our electric vehicle revolution”.

While Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner agreed, he underlined the fact that the government must step up to the plate and provide continued support for UK battery manufacturing so that it becomes a flourishing industry in its own right.

He said the UK cannot stop at one gigafactory – it urgently needs at least another six gigafactories to be built across the country over the next few years, just to keep pace with competitors and secure the long-term future of the automotive sector, as it transitions from combustion engines to hybrid and full electric vehicles.

Speaking at the Sunderland plant, Turner said, “Today is a vital step forward in securing a cleaner, greener future for our industry. 

“Nissan and this incredible workforce were determined that Sunderland should lead the pack as we transition to electric vehicles and today they have delivered,” he added.

“They have battled for years to convince the government to support and invest in UK battery manufacturing, and today’s very welcome announcement will bring much-needed job security to the plant and thousands of new skilled jobs to the region.

“Today is their victory and I am so proud of the role our union, Unite, played in supporting them every step of the way.

“But this fantastic first must not be the last,” Turner went on to say.

“We need at least another six giga-factories to secure the UK’s future as a green auto manufacturer, with investment in the domestic manufacture of the high value components all urgently needed to successfully transition this industry and consumers away from the combustion engine.

“So, I urge the government not to rest on its laurels,” he warned. “Ministers must say more today about when these sites will be forthcoming. No loose promises for the future. Our economy and UK manufacturing demands investment now in the technologies of the future. Germany, for example, is not waiting around – its government is already investing over €1 billion in the construction of facilities to support its automotive heartlands.

“Across the world a green manufacturing revolution is underway. Businesses and investors are scouring the planet looking for opportunities to install green infrastructure and technology at pace and on a huge scale, and they will go where they can see a committed government partner.

“Unfortunately, the employers I deal with every day are tearing their hair out with frustration at the UK government’s half-baked, uncoordinated approach to supporting green manufacturing,” Turner continued. “So I say to ministers celebrating today, you have to step up – no more easy soundbites. Miss this moment to deliver on green jobs and it will not come around again.

“We desperately need a UK battery factory plan not just to safeguard the UK as a modern-day manufacturing powerhouse but to signal to global manufacturers that they should invest here and to consumers that they can buy electric with confidence.

“We will not switch to electric cars or business vehicles, as the planet urgently needs us to do, unless we are confident that we can continue to get from A to B without a hitch. This requires access to a national network of affordable, rapid charge infrastructure.

“So today is a great day for Nissan workers and they can rightly celebrate. But for the rest of the country’s automotive manufacturers, from mass producers to the niche market, for Vauxhall, JLR, Ford, Toyota and BMW, we need a resilient UK component supply chain and six more giga-factories, and we need them now. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are at stake.”

By Hajera Blagg

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