DETROIT: Officials at Nissan’s US auto plant in Canton, Mississippi refused to meet on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) with a French legislator seeking information on workers’ efforts to organize a union.
Christian Hutin, a member of France’s National Assembly, was in Mississippi on a fact-finding mission on working conditions at Nissan, which is partly controlled by the French government via the Renault-Nissan Alliance.
Hutin, who is deputy chairman of the Assembly’s Social Affairs Commission, has been calling for the French government to use its leverage as a major stockholder in Renault to help improve the situation in Canton.
After meeting with workers and civil rights leaders, he told Agence France-Presse that the plant, located in one of the poorest US states, was a “lawless place.”
In May, the United Auto Workers, which has been attempting to organize workers at the Nissan plant, formally complained to the National Labor Relations Board that the automaker was using coercive and illicit tactics to stymie union organizing, including surveillance of workers who have spoken out in favor of unionization.
“It is deeply troubling that Renault-Nissan refuses to meet with Mr Hutin, who is on a good-faith mission to learn about the plight of workers in Canton,” said Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the UAW and director of the union’s transnational department.
The UAW has enlisted support of metal workers unions in Europe, South America and Asia to put pressure on Nissan, but the Japanese automaker has refused to budge.
The French government owns a 20-percent stake in Renault, which in turn is the largest shareholder of Nissan. Nissan itself has a significant but smaller stake in Renault.
So far the company hasn’t budged under the pressure.
Nissan, which opened the plant in 2003, employs more than 6,000 Mississippians.
Company spokeswoman Kristina Adamski said Nissan does not believe workers at the plant will gain from unionization.
“In every country where Nissan has operations, we follow both the spirit and the letter of the law. Nissan not only respects labor laws, but we work to ensure that all employees are aware of these laws, understand their rights and enjoy the freedom to express their opinions and elect their representation as desired.”
She said Nissan was not able to accommodate Hutin’s request to visit the plant “due to the demands of the business.”