With workers at Honda’s Swindon plant preparing to march this Saturday (March 30) to save their jobs, Unite has revealed that the threatened plant closure will be felt in high streets as far afield as Lampeter and Romford.
Honda’s shock announcement in February that it is to exit the UK will see 3,500 direct jobs go and many thousands more lost in the associated supply chain.
Unite has undertaken a postcode profile to plot where the workforce lives. Its findings reveal that the Honda pay packet is spent not just in Swindon but in Boston, Milford Haven and Bristol prompting the union to warn that the economic shockwaves will extend far beyond Swindon.
The impact of job losses will be felt severely because Honda’s wages are significantly above the regional average. While a Honda worker’s average annual wage can range from £22,000 to over £60,000, in Romford a worker can expect to earn on average £20,695 and the average salary in Wales, where some Honda workers live, is only £19,216. In Boston, in Lincolnshire where Honda also has workers, the average salary is just £18,834.
The findings are released as the Swindon community prepares to march this weekend to defend the plant amid fears that the town, where the bulk of the workforce lives, will be hugely and detrimentally impacted if Honda walks away. The average salary in the town is £26,066, which is well under Honda’s average rate of pay — closure of the plant would be a further blow to the area that already contains some of the most deprived areas in the country.
Between 2004 and 2015 the number of people in Swindon categorised as income deprived more than doubled (an increase of 50.6 per cent) and during the same period the number of residents considered to be employment deprived increased by a staggering 68.8 per cent. Three wards in the town (Walcot and Park North, Penhill and Upper Stratton and Gorse Hill and Pinehurst) are ranked in the poorest 60 wards in the entire South West of England.
Commenting on the postcode profile, Unite’s assistant general secretary for manufacturing Steve Turner said, “We are proud that our members at Honda earn a decent and fair wage, they work hard and have fought for decent pay with their union over many years.
But we are under no illusions about the rest of the job market,” he added. “Wages generally have taken a 10 year hit and insecure, precarious work is becoming the norm for too many. On top of that, official figures show the UK is losing 130 manufacturing jobs a day, with declining confidence and investment. Entering into the labour market in search of a new job is a bleak prospect.
“Unite is determined to fight to keep Honda in Swindon,” Turner went on to say. “This is a world class plant with a loyal, dedicated workforce that have earned and deserve a secure future. And it’s not just Honda workers we are fighting for, we have an extended supply chain dependent on the plant and we know from previous experience that when one skilled manufacturing job goes, four more follow elsewhere in the economy.
“That’s why we are fighting day and night to prevent that happening. This plant is viable and should have a bright future. The shift towards electric vehicles should signal a strong, secure, long-term future for Honda in Swindon and this is the case we are and will continue to make to both Honda and the UK government. It is not just Honda at stake here but UK Plc that will take a huge hit if the lights go out at this plant.”
Regional secretary Steve Preddy added,“Swindon has had a troubling downturn in its fortunes so this threat of closure couldn’t come at a worse time. Too many decent jobs have been lost and not replaced. That hurts a community, as you can see it in the high street.
“Swindon already has a foodbank that is struggling to cope with demand. It would be a tragedy if Honda walks away from a town that has given that company so much, sending a loyal workforce to the dole queue. We can’t and won’t let that happen.
“Businesses are telling us that they are fearful about what will happen to this town if Honda goes. It is not just the Honda plant, there is the whole logistics supply chain including Honda Logistics and TS Tech who are also major employers in this town. There are apprentices whose career hangs in the balance.
“Above all, there will be thousands of breadwinners without a pay packet. Unite will simply not stand by and let that happen, which is why we are marching this Saturday and implore the people of the town and region to join us. We are fighting for our communities’ futures here.”
Unite has organised a march and rally through Swindon for Saturday, March 30 as part of its campaign to persuade Honda to think again about its plans to close its entire UK operations. Speakers will include Unite’s general secretary Len McCluskey, Labour’s shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, as well as workers from the plant.
Find out details about the march, and how you can join us here.