Entire Sunderland Nissan workforce set to be honoured with Freedom of the City

Nissan workers on the production line.
Nissan workers on the production line.
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The entire workforce of Sunderland's massively successful Nissan plant are set to be given the Freedom of the City.

Councillors have tabled a motion to convey the honour at tonight's full meeting of Sunderland City Council, held at the Civic Centre.

The bill was be passed unanimously, giving Nissan workers the same honour as the 4th Regiment the Royal Artillery, 3 Rifles, and the ratings and officers of HMS Ocean, Sunderland's adopted warship, and war correspondent Kate Adie,

Nissan's chief performance officer Trevor Mann was awarded a freedom in March 2014, and other recent freedoms have included former Sunderland AFC players Niall Quinn MBE and its goalkeeping legend Jimmy Montgomery BEM, and Joël Batteux the Mayor of Sunderland's twin-town St Nazaire.

The honour for the workforce comes after Nissan, which employs more than 7,000 people in Sunderland, said it would be updating its production facilities with a new Qashqai model and a new vehicle the X-Trail.

The motion nomination reads: "This council congratulates wholeheartedly the Nissan workforce for their sterling efforts in securing the future production of the next generation Qashqai and X-Trail and feels that it is right and proper for the workforce of Nissan to receive the Freedom of the City at a future date."

The notice was proposed by council leader Paul Watson, who said: “For the first time, we have found a way to hit on what the real secret of Nissan’s success is - and that is the workforce.

“This is a proposal that actually hits on what is the real difference between this Nissan plant and the rest of the plants they have around the world.”

The motion was seconded by Tory group leader Coun Peter Wood in a show of cross-party unanimity. He said: “We are all grateful to Nissan for seeing the opportunity Sunderland presented to them and for grasping it.

“To confer the Freedom of the City on them is the best way to show how proud we are of them for the pride they take in their work.”

Freedoms are proposed in Sunderland to individuals or groups who have made outstanding contributions to the wellbeing and community spirit of the city.

The council will look to further arrangements for a Nissan Freedom Ceremony in 2017.

In addition to the recent Nissan announcement, Sunderland City Council has a joint-venture with South Tyneside Council to develop an International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP) to the north of the Nissan plant. This is for more than 100 hectares (more than 100 football pitches) of new manufacturing space to attract 5,000 new jobs and £300million of investment.