Around 50 staff – less than one per cent of the total workforce – will return to work tomorrow in the factory’s powertrain section, which produces the plant’s engine systems.
Nissan announced it was suspending production at the Sunderland plant in the middle of last month and then confirmed on April 2 that it was placing the vast majority of workers on furlough until further notice.
Now the firm is to launch a pilot scheme to restart work in the powertrain section under closely monitored and controlled conditions.
The firm says it has been working with other large-scale manufacturers and public health officials to draw up working methods that will allow staff to return safely.
“Nissan has spent recent weeks carrying out extensive risk assessments and benchmarking with other manufacturers around the world, to put in place a comprehensive set of safety measures to protect the health and well-being of employees,” said a company statement.
“In Sunderland, the new safety protocols will be implemented in a pilot activity involving the Powertrain team which will begin this week, in accordance with public health advice and supported by employee representatives.
“Regular reviews will take place throughout each phase of this pilot, taking into account the feedback from the teams involved. This will inform the return to work protocols for the rest of the factory in the coming weeks.
“No date has been announced yet for the resumption of vehicle production.”
A limited number of staff – those involved in the maintenance and upkeep of the factory – have continued to work and Nissan has also set up a parts processing line at the plant to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers.
Steve Bush, National officer for union Unite, said: “At all times Unite's priority must be to ensure the health and safety of our members, their families and communities as well as their financial and future job security.
“At this time government advice is that manufacturing should, where it’s safe to do so, continue to operate. Unite supports Nissan's actions where the safety of our members has been fully re-evaluated and all necessary precautions put in place.”