The UK is in the grip of a manufacturing emergency which will accelerate, leaving tens of thousands of jobs hanging in the balance, unless the Honda plant in Swindon is saved, Unite warned today (March 18).
Honda’s threatened departure from the UK comes amid recent announcements of approximately 22,000 job losses across the auto sector while the main car manufacturers enter into shutdowns in order to adjust to the continued uncertainty brought about by Brexit.
Unite has called a march and rally through Swindon for March 30 to highlight the devastation on the community of the Honda closure and to place the spotlight on an industry that has thrived for generations, yet is now in danger of slipping into rapid decline.
The march will begin at 11am at the Swindon Town FC coach park for a rally at 12.30pm at GWPR Park, Faringdon Road, Swindon.
The closure of Honda Swindon would directly hit 3,500 jobs at the plant and risk 12,000 or more throughout the region and wider supply chain. One supplier to Honda, which makes the car seats, could close, for example, with the loss of nearly 1,000 jobs.
The union is calling upon Honda, which currently makes one in 10 of all cars sold in the UK, to think again about its planned exit from the UK, saying that with joint action by government and the industry the UK could actually come out of this downturn in the auto sector well-placed to become the leader in new driving technologies.
Unite is working on an alternative plan that would save the skills and jobs and Swindon by bringing the next generation of electric vehicle and industrial innovation to the UK.
“The news that Honda is seeking to exit the UK rocked the very foundations of manufacturing in this country,” said Unite’s general secretary Len McCluskey, announcing the march. “If a company with a dedicated workforce and a strong market can walk away, then what next?
“We are not going to let this happen, not without a fight. Honda has had 30 great and loyal years at Swindon,” he added. “This town and workforce have given their all, which is why we are saying to Honda you must listen to the alternatives.
“There are opportunities to renew UK manufacturing and save jobs. But these must be pursued now and urgently – by unions, the government and industry working hand-in-hand, as would happen in other countries – or vital jobs and solid communities will go. We cannot – and will not – let that happen.
“The alternatives that we are looking at are strong and viable, and they would benefit the whole of the UK auto industry. There is no getting away from the threats to the sector at the moment and that we are in the grip of a manufacturing emergency.
“Honda’s threatened desertion is devastating but we are very clear that this is not the end of the story. While there is one hope to save these jobs and this plant, we will keep it alive. That is why we are calling with the people of Swindon and anyone who values decent jobs in this country to walk with us on 30 March.”
The march on Saturday, March 30 will see Honda Civics join the workforce, marching bands, friends and supporters from around the region. Unite is also mobilising across its manufacturing members and the extensive supply chain which stretches as far afield as south Wales.
At the rally in the GWR park, those gathering in support of the Honda workers will hear from the workers and their families and Swindon’s mayor cllr Junab Ali.
Children’s entertainment and food will be provided by local businesses that want to show their support, but there will also be performances by Unite’s famous brass band and Swindon’s own Josh Kumra, singer and songwriter of number one hit single ‘Don’t go’.
“Swindon is my home town and I want the best for it,” Kumra said. “It will be hit so hard if Honda moves out which is why I want to be part of the campaign fighting to persuade Honda to think again. I hope that the community will join us on March 30 to send that message loud and clear.”
Over 15,000 people signed the #SaveHondaSwindon petition in one weekend. Unite is organising street stalls throughout the region to encourage further signatures and promote the march.