08 January 2004 | Simon Binns
Industrial action by purchasers at Nissan over a planned move from Sunderland would be "futile", according to an automotive industry expert.
The 60-strong purchasing department is up in arms about moving from its Sunderland factory to Nissan's engineering and design centre in Cranfield, Bedfordshire, by June.
Last month, the purchasers, members of the trade union Amicus, voted narrowly in favour of taking some form of industrial action (see News
, 11 December 2003).
But Professor Garel Rhys, director of the Centre for Automotive Industry Research at Cardiff University, told SM that although any form of strike action might be seen as "gallant" it would prove unsuccessful.
"There is clearly a relocation issue the workers feel strongly about, but it is a fait accompli," he said. "Nissan has a good record as an employer. The fact is the unions are not going to win."
Nissan has offered workers who move mortgage interest support and up to £7,500 in relocation allowances.
For workers who don't want to move, a severance package is on offer that includes about £17,500 plus outplacement services to help them find other work.
Rhys said Nissan's packages would be seen by many workers in the north east as generous.
As SM went to press, Nissan had given the purchasers a 1 January deadline to decide which offer to accept.
Amicus conceded that it expected "minimal strike action" but emphasised that this was because the workers were fearful of losing their jobs and of what might happen if they did take industrial action.
Rhys added that it was unusual for any purchasers to behave so militantly.
"It could be driven by the union wanting to show it can protect members who are traditionally not prone to industrial action," he said.
A Nissan spokesman said it wanted the issue resolved "swiftly and amicably" and that Amicus would be allowed into meetings between the car maker and its employees' council, which has represented workers for 18 years.
He added that of the 40 staff balloted by Amicus, only 20 returned their ballots and 17 said yes to industrial action.