Nissan cuts shifts at UK plant as uncertainty continues

10 October 2019

Nissan cuts shifts at UK plant as uncertainty continues

10 October 2019

Nissan is to cut the number of shifts at its Sunderland plant, dealing another blow to the facility ahead of the UK’s departure from the EU.

The carmaker has removed the night shift from the factory. This will not affect jobs or production, with the 440,000 annual builds now split between the two remaining daytime shifts and employees transferring to the new slots. Yet the move could signify a ‘winding down’ of production at the site with rumours continuing about its viability, especially with a no-deal Brexit possible.

Plans to reduce the number of shifts have been on the table for some time, according to the Unite union, which represents plant workers. ‘Our officers and reps at the plant have been working hard to ensure that the full workforce is protected,’ said assistant general secretary Steve Turner. ’As a result, no jobs will be lost with current demand consolidated into the remaining day shifts.’

Brexit woes

Nissan has said that it is exploring the future of plants and will look to cut its global workforce following a turbulent year that has seen sales and profits plummet. The carmaker is suffering from the hangover of the Carlos Ghosn scandal and has just appointed a new top management team in an attempt to move the company on and strengthen the strained relationship with alliance partner Renault.

Additionally, Brexit is proving another problem for the carmaker. Following the referendum in 2016, the UK’s government made assurances to the Japanese manufacturer to secure production of its next-generation X-Trail in the country. However, Nissan has now reversed this decision, preferring instead to keep production in Japan, which enjoys a guaranteed free-trade deal with the EU.

Future trouble

Reports earlier this month, suggest that production of the Qashqai model may move from Sunderland to Spain, while the smaller Juke could also see a shift in its manufacturing base. This would leave the Leaf electric vehicle as Sunderland’s main model.

Moving production to mainland Europe would be easy for the carmaker, especially as many platforms are shared with alliance partner Renault, meaning the Japanese manufacturer could use its alliance partner’s facilities while it gets back-on-track financially.

Both Honda and Ford are already shutting plants in Britain, and PSA has refused to commit to manufacturing in the country. With the situation at Nissan and the opportunity of free trade from its domestic market and other sites in Europe, it is possible that Sunderland may fall on the Brexit sword - especially if no-deal occurs, which is looking increasingly likely.