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US: Nissan ‘scare tactics’ make workers reject union recognition

A VOTE against union recognition by Nissan workers at the Canton plant in Mississippi was the result of “intense scare tactics” and “intimidation,” the United Auto Workers (UAW) has charged.

The US’s National Labour Relations Board (NLRB) supervised a two-day vote at the plant on Thursday and Friday which went 2,244 to 1,307 against recognising the union.

Nissan bosses said staff had “rejected” the UAW and “chosen to self-represent, continuing the direct relationship they enjoy with the company.”

The union has raised repeated concerns over the Japanese car giant’s safety record.

In Smyrna, Tennessee, employee Dennis Pinkston was killed last November when a 600-kilo counterweight struck him on the head as he was checking conveyor belt repairs — an incident for which Nissan was fined $29,000 (£22,250) — while at Canton, Nissan received a $21,000 (£16,000) penalty in March after safety inspectors concluded that inadequate training was behind an employee’s loss of three fingers in another conveyor belt accident.

Only a ruling by a federal judge induced the company to submit to an Occupational Safety and Health Inspection demand that worker representatives be allowed to accompany safety inspectors at the plant.

UAW president Dennis Williams said the firm had run a “vicious campaign against its own workforce,” pointing to NLRB charges that management threatened cuts to pay and benefits and even to close the plant if workers opted for union recognition.

Anti-union videos were played in the workplace urging staff to “vote No” and the company broadcast further attack advertisements on Mississippi cable TV.

The union has filed complaints regarding alleged violations of the National Labour Relations Act, such as “widespread surveillance of worker union activity,” sacking a pro-trade union worker employed via a temping agency and threatening to sack another, and “denial of equal access to voters.”

UAW secretary-treasurer Gary Casteel said he was “disappointed but not surprised” at the result of the vote.

“Nissan waged one of the most illegal and unethical antiunion campaigns that I’ve seen in my lifetime,” he added. “Clearly, Nissan will not honour workers’ right to be free of coercion and intimidation.”


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