More jobs were lost in the automotive industry yesterday, as both Nissan and BMW joined the list of car makers to cut jobs in the UK after losing sales.
BMW said it was cutting 70 agency staff from its Hams Hall engine-making plant in Warwickshire. And Japanese firm Nissan sent shockwaves through the industry by axing 1,200 jobs at its Sunderland site – the country’s biggest and most productive motor plant.
The job losses at Hams Hall represent about 10 per cent of the workforce there. A spokeswoman for the company said: “The car industry worldwide is experiencing challenging times, the current economic climate has had an impact on sales and we are having to adjust production volume to reflect changes in market demand.”
BMW cut 290 staff just before Christmas at its plant in Oxford.
Hams Hall makes all the four-cylinder petrol engines for BMW’s worldwide operation.
The cuts at Nissan, which include 400 staff on temporary contracts, follow increasing pleas from the motor industry for government action to boost the availability of credit for consumers as well as firms.
Union officials said the surprise announcement was “devastating” news for the workers and their families while business leaders described the cuts as the “harsh realities” of the global slowdown. Business secretary Lord Mandelson said: “I appreciate this will be a tough time for workers,” and pledged the government would work with the local regional development agency to help workers find new jobs.
Nissan workers only returned to the production line on Monday after an extended Christmas shutdown in response to the slowdown in sales.
Nissan said the outlook for the car market this year remained “extremely challenging”, adding that it was committed to taking the right action now to safeguard the plant’s long-term sustainability.
The company announced that one shift will be cut from the plant’s two production lines until March, with one being reinstated in April.
Figures yesterday showed car sales continuing to fall, with sales down to the lowest levels in more than a decade.
Trevor Mann, Nissan’s senior vice-president for manufacturing, Europe, said: “Like all manufacturers, Sunderland plant is currently operating in extraordinary circumstances not of our making.
“It is essential we take the right action now to ensure we are in a strong and viable position once business conditions return to normal.
“We will begin preparations to launch another new model in 2010, which will be our sixth in seven years. This level of new model introduction is unparalleled in plants across Europe and demonstrates the confidence Nissan’s top management has in the Sunderland workforce.”