Nissan workers' struggle steps up ahead of decision on plant's future

As Catalan and Spanish governments join forces to stop closure of factory, unions estimate a potential 25,000 job losses

Nissan workers protest outside the Japanese consulate in Barcelona, May 27, 2020 (by Guifré Jordan)
Nissan workers protest outside the Japanese consulate in Barcelona, May 27, 2020 (by Guifré Jordan) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

May 27, 2020 01:47 PM

Nissan workers continue the struggle to keep their jobs as the company is expected to announce the future of its plant in Catalonia as early as this Thursday, when it will announce its strategic plan.

The carmaker 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 May 14.

While nothing is confirmed, the employees have been on indefinite strike since May 4 to protest against the uncertainty, and have held several protests in the past few days, including two on Wednesday with dozens of workers gathering outside the Japanese consulate in Barcelona, and outside the European Commission seat in the Catalan city.

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

The Catalan and Spanish governments have also joined forces in order to avoid the closure of the factory.

"We are not giving up, we will continue to argue that the Nissan plants in Catalonia are competitive," said the Catalan business minister, Àngels Chacon, during a demonstration.

According to Spain's industry ministry, closing the plant will cost the Japanese firm one billion euros, so they believe it would be "more profitable and cheap" investing in it with new models, rather than closing it.

The ministry also said that Spain would not make it easy for Nissan to shut their facilities in Barcelona.

Both governments have worked on an industrial plan in order to persuade the Japanese company not to end its activity in Catalonia.

The capital's local executive also supports the plant: "We will not give up and accept the closure of the plants in Catalonia."

Fears of closure grow due to global context

On May 22, the Japanese news agency Kyodo published that Nissan intends to lay off 20,000 people around the world, mostly in Europe, in order to respond to falling sales.

These plans, expected to be announced on Thursday, would mean that 15% of the carmaker's workers would be sacked.

On Tuesday this week, the alliance between Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi revealed that these three firms will divide their activity in world regions, meaning that Renault will be the one in charge of Europe, Nissan in China, North America and Japan, and Mitsubishi in southeastern Asia and Oceania.