Unite Union announces rally at Nissan Sunderland plant over DB scheme closure plans

Unite Union has announced plans for a socially distanced rally at the Nissan Sunderland plant on 11 July, in response to the firms proposals to close its defined benefit (DB) pension scheme for workers at the plant.

The union said that there is “growing anger” at the firm’s “disdain and disregard” for the 1,800 workers impacted by the proposals, as well as its refusal to offer an industry standard lump sum usually provided when such schemes are closed.

Furthermore, it emphasised that without “substantial movement” by the company on the scheme closure, there could be industrial action at the Sunderland site for the first time since the plant was opened in 1984.

Organisers have been clear that those attending the rally must provide contact details to union organisers and that participants are expected to adhere to social distancing measures at all times, although masks and hand sanitiser will also be available on site.

A number of speakers, including Unite assistant general secretary, Steve Turner, will be in attendance.

Unite national officer, Steve Bush, commented: “The opportunistic closure of the defined benefits scheme will reduce the financial security of nearly 2,000 of the company’s longest serving and loyal staff by tens of thousands of pounds.

“These staff are facing an unexpected and gaping hole in their financial security during retirement, but rather than attempt to find a compromise Nissan has met their concerns with disdain and disregard.

“Normally staff who accept the closure of defined pension schemes are offered a lump sum as compensation for the huge losses incurred, but Nissan is refusing to even countenance this."

He added: “Our members are incredibly angry at the company’s disgraceful behaviour. Without substantial movement during consultation, this dispute could result in the first ever industrial action being taken at Nissan in Sunderland.”

Nissan has emphasised that it aims to provide “competitive benefits” to all staff, but that these must be balanced with the businesses own long term sustainability.

A spokesperson for Nissan explained: “The level of company investment needed to maintain the defined benefit pension plan has grown to unsustainable levels.

“For this reason we are in discussions with affected employees and their representatives about the proposed closure of the plan.”

The union previously condemned the proposals as “opportunistic” when announced in June, stating that it would not “stand by and let this happen”.

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