Car giant Nissan announced on Thursday (May 28) that it will keep its Sunderland plant open, but said it intends to shut its factory in Barcelona.
Workers in Sunderland may have breathed a sigh of relief that their plant, the most efficient in Europe, is safe, but the car company also highlighted that it will be pushing through what it called additional ‘efficiency savings’ globally.
Unite has vowed that such savings cannot come at the expense of jobs, terms and conditions or other benefits, while the union also sent its solidarity to workers in Spain and vowed to support them in their fight to save jobs.
As part of its restructuring plan, Nissan said it would be cutting production globally as well as its number of models, from 69 models to about 55 over the next several years. But the automotive firm confirmed that it would be maintaining production at the Sunderland plant.
The restructuring comes at a time when the car company has been hit by a slump in sales both before and during the coronavirus pandemic. For the first time in more than a decade, Nissan posted a net loss.
Nissan said today (May 28) in a press briefing that it would be switching to focus on its ‘key markets’ in China, Japan and North America but intends to ‘sustain’ its presence in Europe.
Nissan is part of a tripartite alliance alongside car manufacturers Renault and Mitsubishi, and it is understood that Nissan could make way for Renault to focus on Europe, with speculation that Renault could switch some of its production to Sunderland.
Production at the Sunderland factory is set to resume in June after it shut down in March in response to the pandemic.
Commenting on the latest news, Unite national officer for automotive Steve Bush said, “Unite continues to push for sector level assistance from government to support the transition of our world class automotive industry in these unprecedented times.
“But that does not mean we will stand by as companies discuss detrimental measures in reaction to immediate and short-term challenges,” he added.
“We are seeking clear assurances from Nissan that the cost cutting measures spoken about will not impact on our members’ jobs, terms and conditions or other benefits at Europe’s most efficient plant, Sunderland.
“We have made it clear to Nissan that any attempt to do this will be fought by the union and a loyal, world class workforce,” Bush noted. “There needs to be a full consultation with Unite to ensure that any rationalisation or restructuring of the business is done in a way that protects jobs and the financial security of our members as well as the long-term future of the plant.
“The loss of the jobs of our Spanish colleagues is a regrettable reminder that automotive manufacturing is facing tremendous challenges,” he went on to say. “We send our solidarity to our colleagues in Barcelona and want to assure them that we will support all their efforts to defend their jobs.”
News that Nissan will maintain production at its Sunderland plant comes as the Treasury said earlier this week it is now developing an economic rescue plan for strategically important British industries, of which automotive is one.
The plan, dubbed Project Birch, could mean the government potentially taking equity stakes in struggling companies as a last resort.
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner welcomed news of the plan, noting, “We have to see the details, of course, but as a trade union we have been working hard with our industrial partners to persuade government of the need for long-term support for core industries and to build our way out of this crisis, saving jobs and skills.”
By Hajera Blagg