Friday, June 9, 2023

Nissan’s reindustrialisation will cover just over half the workforce awaiting relocation in 2023

View of the Nissan plant in Barcelona’s Zona Franca, a year before it announced the closure of its plants in Barcelona.Alejandro Garcia (EFE)

Delays in the process of reindustrialising the Nissan plant in the Barcelona free zone, which closed late last year, have kept workers in suspense. If there are no further delays, the Barcelona Free Zone Consortium will confirm before Christmas that the consortium made up of QEV and BTech, along with logistics operator Goodman, will finally be able to take over the old Nissan factory and start their project to make electric vehicles. vehicle. But the slowness of decisions poses the risk of not being able to meet the expectations of all those workers who, since January, have been waiting for transfers while they are consuming unemployment benefits. Of the 1,600 employees who were fired (not counting early retirees), some 300 have already recused themselves from the process and requested 20% compensation they don’t have, and 1,300 who were reinstated They are still frozen waiting to happen. But the new companies’ plans won’t reach everyone in this second year in which they are still unemployed: QEV and BTech plan to hire some 600 people next year, while motorcycle maker Silence has already signed 40 and It is expected to reach 110 in 2023. In total, 710 employees.

Nissan’s closure, with assembly of the last station wagon on the production line, was a blow to the workers, but a process of reindustrialization soon began, which proved slow and fraught with setbacks. Meanwhile, 80% of the workforce began receiving unemployment benefits in January. Mario Garcia is one of them. He entered as an operator at the age of 18 – he is now 49 – and went through engine and axle assembly workshops, transmission workshops and body shops. They get about 1,000 euros in unemployment. “I was counting on taking early retirement at Nissan as my father did, I thought if another model came along, that would be enough for me,” he explains by phone. The subsidy represents half the amount one would have earned as a worker. “If I manage myself well, I’m doing it, because I’m single and my apartment is paid for, but I’ve had to cut back, I don’t travel much or buy clothes.” I am,” he says. “I have always trusted that they would transfer me. It’s not that I’m frustrated, because time is ticking by, but I’m starting to get impatient. I hope I don’t have to spend two years unemployed,” says García, who admits to being “frustrated” by the process: “especially by governments, because it was already seen that Nissan would leave, And the administration didn’t do much to stop it. And then, with the negotiations, we all hoped it would get better, the unions have fought a lot, but they’ve got a lot of spokes in the wheels.

Garcia points out that, among those waiting, many are in her position: “Collecting unemployment during this kind of sabbatical and scraping some of the compensation if it doesn’t come to the expenses. But everyone looks forward to going back to work.” However, others have had to look for other jobs as they cannot survive on the subsidy. This is the case of Sergio, 47, who prefers not to give his last name, and who now works in a multinational services company. “From the first day I started job hunting, my philosophy has been to not expect anything or anyone,” he says. In this time, he has added a few contracts and has endured just a little more than two months of unemployment. He has decided not to demand full compensation, but he is not convinced to return to Nissan: “I am still in the process of reindustrialisation, but my goal is to stay where I am now. It is a very stable The company is there, with good conditions, and it’s a job for life. Although I also thought Nissan would be for life…”.

The new company knows it won’t be able to cover everyone next year. Joan Orus, CEO of QEV Technologies, explains, “We are talking with Generalitat and Labor to see if we can maximize hiring through December 2023 before unemployment benefits begin to be consumed.” The company expects to be able to take possession of the El Prat and Montcada i Reixac plants in February and to reach production of 20,000 units to be able to launch its last-mile vans under the Zeroid brand in late next year. Hope to try. 2024. Your partner, BTech, is, in turn, working to start assembly of a model similar to the electric NV200 van, which Nissan produced in Barcelona and which will now be sold under the Ebro brand. For its part, Silence is estimated to begin production of its electric quadricycles during the first quarter at the same facilities in the free zone. First it signed up nine people and has now rented a quarantine, with the goal of reaching 110 people by the end of the year.

The QEV and BTech project has been heavily vetted since its initial proposal, when 20 companies pitched the idea with an investment provision of 800 million euros. In the end, it remained two partners who would form a joint venture. Its problems with obtaining guarantees have ultimately cut off its claims to receive European funding through the Strategic Project for the Economic Reform and Transformation of the Electric Vehicle (PRTE). In the end, they will only get 57 million euros, although they have also applied to the Moves II program to try to get more aid. For now, other vehicle projects in their portfolio will have to wait. With its annual project, the investment forecast will be a little over 300 million euros.

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If half of Nissan’s workforce still doesn’t have guaranteed jobs, it’s even worse for those who used to work for suppliers who were completely orphaned in reindustrialization. The slowness of the administration has also played against them. At the end of 2021, Generalitat asked the EU for funding to provide individual training to the 2,500 workers fired by Nissan and another 8,000 affected working for their suppliers. Brussels approved 2.8 million euros from the European Globalization Adjustment Fund for laid-off workers. The development of the program, in which the Catalan government and social agents participate, is still a work in progress and union sources suggest that of the 1,700 dismissed by ERE in the automotive industry in Catalonia between July 2020 and January 2022, only those can be benefitted. There will remain 700 potential beneficiaries of the measure, as the rest will have taken early retirement, found work or are not interested.

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