Nissan rejects U.S. government offer to mediate Mississippi UAW row

DETROIT (Reuters) - Nissan Motor Co 7201.T has rejected a U.S. State Department offer to mediate a dispute between the company and the United Auto Workers over claims of anti-union practices as the UAW tries to organize workers in Mississippi.

A woman walking past Nissan Motor Co.'s GT-R is reflected on the company logo of a vehicle at its showroom in Yokohama, south of Tokyo November 6, 2012. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

The UAW was joined by the umbrella labor group IndustriALL Global Union Federation last April in asking the State Department for its help.

Even as the mediation would have been non-binding, the UAW’s effort to include a global union group and the State Department is part of its ongoing campaign to turn public opinion against Nissan for what it claims are violations of workers’ rights.

The State Department said in a statement its role had ended because “a voluntary mediation process could not be established since Nissan was not willing to participate,” with the State Department’s National Contact Point (NCP), which works to further the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s guidelines in the United States.

“The NCP regrets Nissan’s unwillingness to participate in the process,” the statement, dated Jan. 30, said.

The UAW has been trying for more than a decade to organize the Nissan plant near Jackson, and has said Nissan is using “threats, intimidation and fear” to keep the union out of the plant, which it says violate OECD guidelines.

On Monday afternoon, a Nissan spokesman said by email that the company declined to participate in the mediation “because long-established guidelines for bringing a union vote already exist,” and are set by the U.S. National Labor Relations Board.

“Nissan respects labor laws in every nation where it operates and works to ensure that all employees are aware of these laws,” the statement said, adding that all Nissan workers have the ability to decide whether they want to be in a union.

The State Department’s NCP also has no power to judge disputes that it is asked to mediate.

There are between 6,000 and 6,300 employees, including full-time Nissan and contract workers, at the plant in Canton, Mississippi.

Nissan has an alliance incorporated in the Netherlands with French-based Renault SA RENA.PA. Renault owns 43.4 percent of Nissan.

The UAW said it may file objections to Nissan’s behavior in Mississippi with OECD liaisons with governments in Japan, France and the Netherlands.

Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Alan Crosby