Hundreds of Nissan workers blocked roads and burned tires on Thursday to protest the Japanese automaker’s decision to close its Barcelona plant in December.
The move, which had been widely anticipated but was officially announced Thursday at 10 am, means 3,000 direct jobs will be lost. In total, around 20,000 workers are expected to be directly or indirectly affected by the closure of Nissan’s largest plant in Spain. Automobile manufacturing is a major economic sector in Catalonia, contributing around 10% of the regional GDP.
The Spanish executive said it “deplores” the decision and has suggested that the automaker create a task force to find alternatives. But the Japanese multinational said that after considering the various options, “we believe that there is no viable possibility for the future”, in the words of the president of Nissan Europe, Gianluca de Ficchy.
The Ministry of Industry stressed that the closure of the Catalan plant would cost more than investing in its continuity: 1 billion euros against 300 million euros, the Efe news agency reported.
This amount includes compensation for redundant workers and suppliers whose contracts will not be honored, as well as the cost of cleaning up the factory site. The Catalan head of the Business and Knowledge department, Angels ChacÃ³n, said the company has received 25 million euros in public aid over the past 12 years.
The Ministry of Industry believes that the Catalan plant could have a future if Nissan invests in a new production line and assigns the plant a new electric vehicle. The Spanish government presented the plan earlier this year at the company’s headquarters in Yokohama, as part of a joint project with the Catalan government and the city of Barcelona.
ChacÃ³n said in a TV interview on TV3 that the regional executive will not facilitate Nissan’s departure from Barcelona. She accused the multinational of “disloyalty” and “contempt” for its lack of response to the alternative plan.
Anger and helplessness
Angry workers blocked streets and burned tires outside the factory, located in the Zona Franca industrial area, and announced further protests. â€œThey left us to die,â€ said workers’ committee chairman Juan Carlos Vicente after a meeting with company executives.
But for many workers at this historic auto factory, the overwhelming feeling was one of helplessness.
â€œThis is very difficult news. We knew it, we imagined it could happen, but you never think it’s really going to happen. There are a lot of families that could be left on the streets, and we feel helplessness and a lot of anger, â€said Cristina Montero, 43, a single mother with a mortgage to pay who works at the Nissan plant. for 15 years.
â€œWe had warned for many years that they were taking cars away from us and taking them to factories in France or England,â€ Vicente said. In recent months, the Barcelona plant had fallen to 20% of its manufacturing capacity after the withdrawal of several models.
â€œThey told us that we couldn’t be competitive even if they gave us a car. They don’t want to keep Barcelona, â€‹â€‹but we can’t allow it. We will come back to that, â€he added.
But not all workers see this as very likely. “Things have been going badly for many years, and now it’s a total collapse,” said JosÃ© Antonio Pina, who has worked here for 21 years. Ãlex Navarro, who went to work at the assembly plant 16 years ago, was more optimistic: â€œThe negotiations start, and that’s when the pressure has to be put on.
The closure will affect the Zona Franca production plant as well as those of Montcada i Reixac and Sant Andreu de la Barca. In theory, the company’s factories in Ãvila and Cantabria, which have no connection with Barcelona production, will not be affected.
Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida said the “difficult decision” was part of a move to cut the company’s global production capacity by 20% to produce around 5.4 million vehicles per year.
The shutdown is part of Nissan’s drive to become profitable again after recording net losses in the last fiscal year. The automaker is also strengthening its alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi, and plans to leave the European market to Renault while Nissan focuses on Japan, China and North America.
english version by Susana Urra.