Fears grow over future of Barcelona Nissan plant

Japanese media say factory will close with decision expected May 28

A display of T-shirts calling for a future for the Nissan plant in Barcelona's Zona Franca, May 6, 2020 (by Àlex Recolons)
A display of T-shirts calling for a future for the Nissan plant in Barcelona's Zona Franca, May 6, 2020 (by Àlex Recolons) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

May 15, 2020 02:44 PM

Nissan is to close its factory in Barcelona's Zona Franca and move production to Renault factories elsewhere, according to reports in Japanese newspaper Nikkei on Thursday.

The move would be part of a restructuring plan to deal with the drop in sales caused by the Covid-19 pandemic following years of declining profits.

According to the Japanese media, Nissan could reduce its production capacity by 20% until the financial year ending in March 2023. The multinational will present the results of 2019 and beginning of 2020 on May 28.

If the Barcelona plant closes, more than 3,000 direct and 20,000 indirect jobs would be at risk, according to trade unions.

The trade union USOC asked the management of Nissan Spain to deny "immediately" that the multinational has already decided to close the plant.

Nissan staff in Catalonia have been on indefinite strike since May 4 precisely because of uncertainty over the future of the multinational's factories, especially since the automaker announced earlier this year that it is studying the viability of the sites.

'Negotiate and find solutions'

Business association Foment del Treball reacted to the news by calling upon the political administrations to "negotiate and find solutions with shareholders."

The body’s president Josep Sánchez Llibre demanded the Spanish and Catalan governments offer "alternatives and options" to avoid any factory closures. 

Sánchez Llibre says that some 25,000 people depend on the multinational directly or indirectly, and that the closure would be "a very hard blow" for industry and employment in Catalonia at a "particularly serious" time.

Viable and competitive factories

Catalan business minister, Àngels Chacón, has said the government is working to prove to Nissan that the factories in Catalonia are viable and competitive and that it makes more sense to adapt them than to shut them completely.

In an interview with 'El Matí de Catalunya Ràdio' on Friday morning, Chacón admitted that there has been no official confirmation of the company's plans but that, given the information that has been leaked to the Japanese press, there are "many indications that are more than worrying.”

Chacón has asked the company for clarity, out of "respect" for the thousands of workers, but admitted there was "long-standing concern" about the situation of the multinational, with many decisions, such as those that may affect the factories in Barcelona, ​​Montcada and Sant Andreu de la Barca, "taken miles away, and based on global parameters."

The Catalan vice president Pere Aragonès took a similar tone on Friday, saying that the government is doing everything in its powers to keep the Nissan factory in Barcelona.

In an interview with Radio 4 he described the reports that the manufacturer will close the plant and move production to Renault factories as "media conjuncture."

Aragonès admitted the situation is "complicated," but that "nothing is confirmed" and a decision will be made on May 28.

'Good bet for future'

Meanwhile, the mayor of Barcelona has asked the Japanese multinational not to "make hasty decisions," saying that the Catalan capital "is a good bet for the future."

Speaking to Catalan public broadcaster TV3, Ada Colau stated that she did not have confirmation that Nissan wanted to close the Barcelona plant and hoped that the information provided by the Japanese media on Thursday would not materialize.

"Nissan must have a future in Barcelona," she said, asking the company to "allow time" for a restructuring plan to be put together.

On Thursday the mayor was criticized by Junts per Catalunya city councillors, who called on her to put aside "prejudices and anti-car obsessions" and support the Catalan government attempts to save jobs in the Nissan factories. 

In February, Colau committed the council to voting for a declaration of support for employees at the plant, following a meeting with workers' representatives. 

Uncertainty over Nissan's plans for its operations in Catalonia has been around for some time. In May last year, after weeks of talks, Nissan and unions finally reached a deal over the automobile manufacturer's intention to lay off 600 workers.