Nissan threatened with first strike over plan to shift purchasing

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The Independent Online

Nissan's factory in Sunderland, Europe's most productive car plant, faces its first strike since it was set up two decades ago. Staff in the purchasing department are to be balloted on industrial action over plans to move them 240 miles from the North-east to Cranfield, in Bedfordshire.

Davey Hall, north-east regional secretary of the Amicus union, said the decision had been taken without any consultation with employees. He said the company was insisting on discussing the issue with the plant's works council, a largely non-union body.

The Amicus official said staff would be issued with ballot papers next Monday and the result of the vote would be known on 8 December. The 60 staff, who work on operational support and the sourcing of materials, are paid between £14,000 and £36,000 a year.

Mr Hall said: "If the purchasing department workers are not prepared to relocate to Cranfield they stand to lose their jobs, their redundancy pay, money in lieu of notice and - as they have not been offered any alternative - they stand to lose their dignity."

He said the company had been "high-handed" and announced the move as a "fait accompli". Mr Hall said: "This is an absolutely ridiculous situation where the only union to be recognised by Nissan has to ballot its members for strike action simply to allow Amicus officers to hold formal talks with management. We are quite willing to meet the company at any time."

Nissan agreed to recognise the Amalgamated Engineering Union, a forerunner of Amicus, nearly 18 years ago, but negotiating rights were severely restricted. Critics of the deal argued that the company council was under complete control of management.

A spokesman for Nissan said talk of industrial action had come as a "complete surprise" because the move was not due to take place until June next year and that discussions were at an early stage.