IT IS good news that Nissan workers in Sunderland began a strike ballot this week. It is over management's refusal to talk to the Amicus union about compulsory relocation of the company's purchasing department. It could be the first strike in the plant's history and would shatter the myth of the great 'partnership' employer.
If Nissan relocates its purchasing department from Sunderland to Bedfordshire some 60 workers face redundancy or travelling 240 miles from their homes. About 20 years ago Nissan and a host of smaller employers were lured to the north east of England with massive grants and handouts to replace some of the tens of thousands of jobs lost in heavy engineering. These employers were to be new and modern, and provide good jobs. Now the gleaming promises are badly tarnished.
Many thousands of these new jobs with bright new employers have been sacrificed in the interests of 'efficiency' or to secure company profits. A fairly typical example of relocation is Federal Mogal, which had a thriving, highly profitable factory in Sunderland making piston rings for all the major car manufacturers.
Then it was relocated to the Czech Republic, where wages were only a third of those in Sunderland. It was the same Federal Mogal whose American parent company recently paid compensation to British asbestos sufferers with dud cheques that bounced. Unfortunately the trade union leaders have never shown any inclination to fight the bosses over these job losses. Let's hope there is a real fight at Nissan.