11 December 2003 | David Arminas
Industrial unrest by purchasers at Nissan's Sunderland plant is a sign that worsening employee relations could be on the way for the automotive sector.
A major report by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the trade association for the automotive sector's manufacturers and component suppliers, found that 57 per cent of respondents were concerned that trade union militancy would increase.
A spokesperson for the SMMT told SM: "The Nissan problems may prove the point that there is concern over industrial relations.
"The industry should set about dealing with it now."
This week, the 60 purchasers at the Nissan plant are set to decide what action, if any, they may take following the Japanese car maker's decision to move the parts purchasing department to its engineering and design centre in Bedfordshire (see News, 27 November
The staff's trade union, Amicus, balloted the purchasers amid acrimonious discussions with senior Nissan management about the move.
The SMMT report also noted that 70 per cent of respondents were bullish about their competitiveness with the rest of Europe.
But only 27 per cent believed they were competitive with the rest of the world, especially fearing competition from China and the Asia-Pacific region.
There is also deep concern among 92 per cent of the 80 businesses surveyed by the SMMT about the burden of increasing legislation from Westminster and the European Union.