‘Hands off our pensions!’ demand angry Nissan workers
Elaine Brunskill, Tyne and Wear Socialist Party
Around 500 Nissan workers joined a march and rally (pictured above) in opposition to plans to close their final pension scheme. The rally took place at the main gate of Nissan’s Sunderland plant.
Nissan is closing the existing defined benefit (or ‘final salary’) pension scheme, replacing it with an inferior defined contribution scheme, impacting 2,000 workers
This is the first time in the plant’s 33-year history that any form of protest has happened, and speaking to workers it is clear that if Nissan doesn’t back down with this attack on workers’ pensions, it will undoubtedly lead to more militant trade union action.
Steve Bush, Unite national officer, told us that Nissan management had taken an “arrogant stance” which was unacceptable. He went on to say he was really pleased with the turnout of the protest, which would put the union in a good position to negotiate with Nissan management.
Workers told us that Nissan had recently put out a DVD explaining the strength of Nissan in Sunderland was its workforce and team spirit – yet this is how Nissan wants to repay their workforce!
Another said how the company used to listen to their workers. They used to have on-site meetings, where employees could put questions to their bosses.
Now they have televised statements or emails sent out to them – Nissan are no longer interested in having a dialogue.
It was good to see a banner at the protest “Stay Strong Barcelona”, in reference to the Nissan plant in Spain which is due to close.
We spoke to a number of workers who expressed the view that the attack on Spanish Nissan workers was an attack on all, and a wake-up call for many workers at the Sunderland plant who had once regarded Nissan as a company that looked after its workforce.
International workers’ solidarity is important as the attack on the Sunderland pension scheme is one part of Nissan’s £2.3 billion cuts worldwide.
Nissan, in alliance with Renault, is using the Covid crisis as cover to cut jobs, intensify work, reduce capacity and pit workers against each other in the name of ‘efficiency’.
Nissan workers on the protest were hopeful that this protest would be a wake-up call for Nissan, but are clearly prepared to step up the action if protesting is not enough.