Honda today (May 13) confirmed that it would press ahead with the closure of its Swindon plant by 2021 – a move Unite branded a ‘body blow of betrayal’ as reports emerged that workers had been told the news via DVD.
Today’s (May 13) news comes after the carmaker said it had rejected an alternative plan for the Swindon plant which would have kept it open.
The closure of Honda Swindon threatens the livelihoods of over 15,000 direct Honda employees and workers in the supply chain.
Before news broke in February of Honda’s plans to shut the Swindon site, workers had been kept in the dark about the proposals – they learned of their fates in media reports.
Today (May 13) as Honda confirmed its plans publicly, workers again were treated with shocking disrespect, explained Unite regional officer Steve Preddy.
“Today, workers were shunted into a room and shown a DVD confirming the plant closure,” he said. “They were then told if they had any questions to go to their union rep or HR. Workers have been left stunned by the utter callousness of the company, which has chosen to deliver this devastating news to their loyal workforce first by media leaks and then by DVD. It’s unbelievably dehumanising.”
Preddy said the effect the Honda plant closure would have on the local community would be devastating.
“Swindon and the surrounding area had already been hit hard when the rail industry left the town – Honda came in and picked up the pieces. Now, the area will be totally bereft of any quality manufacturing jobs. The effect this will have on the local area and local businesses cannot be overstated.”
Honda said in a statement that its decision to close the plant is “part of Honda’s broader global strategy in response to changes to the automotive industry”.
But Unite national officer Des Quinn said that Unite’s alternative case to keep Honda Swindon open “added up and was likely to be backed by the government with public money.
“It would have made Honda a global leader in emerging battery technology and in a strong position to exploit the growing global market for electric vehicles in the coming years,” he noted.
“Instead we have this body blow which is nothing short of a betrayal of the workforce, customers and the wider supply chain which relies on Honda Swindon for work.”
Preddy agreed with Quinn that Unite’s alternative plan had not been adequately considered by the company.
“We have done all we can to engage meaningfully with Honda – now we are prepared to do anything and everything, including taking industrial action, to defend our members,” he said.
Quinn pointed out that the only conclusion that can be drawn from today’s news is that “Honda is taking a strategic decision to retreat out of Europe in favour of protecting its North American operations and avoiding president Trump’s tariff threat on cars made in Europe.”
“Unite will be consulting with its members on our next steps in the coming days,” he added.