The timing is dreadful. Today is the day that the cabinet meets in Liverpool to show solidarity with northern workers.
There have been announcements aplenty, such as new apprenticeships (which may or may not really be new – witness this cringeworthy interview with Tony McNulty, employment minister, on last night’s Newsnight).
And then Nissan drops the bombshell: the car giant is to cut 1,200 jobs at its plant in Sunderland as sales slump. That is a large proportion of the 5,000 workers at the factory, one of the biggest employers in the north-east. It’s “devastating” news – in the words of Derek Simpson of Unite.
Ministers had until now been boasting* about a deal whereby Nissan workers would work part-time and receive training during the rest of the week – the sort of deal which could be replicated elsewhere to (supposedly) prevent redundancies. It obviously hasn’t worked.
The news also puts further pressure on the government to come up with help for the ailing car industry, which has been begging for money for months. Jaguar Land Rover (owned by Tata of India) is the most high-profile carmaker in dire need of help.
PA reported today that Nissan sales for December 2008 fell 27 per cent compared to the same month of 2007 – worse than the national decline of 21 per cent. Read more