Wiltshire

Swindon Honda closure 'a body blow', says Unite

Honda Swindon plant Image copyright PA
Image caption Honda made 160,000 Honda Civics in Swindon last year

Honda's decision to close its Swindon plant is a "body blow" and a "betrayal", a union has said.

The Japanese car maker said a three-month consultation produced "no viable alternatives" to its plan to close the factory in 2021.

It added talks to agree redundancy packages with the 3,500 workers would "begin immediately".

Unite national officer Des Quinn said the union would speak to members about next steps.

A proposal to cease production of 160,000 Honda Civics a year was confirmed in February.

Honda UK director Jason Smith said the decision was taken with a "heavy heart".

"We understand the impact this decision has on our associates, suppliers and the wider community," he said.

"We are committed to continuing to support them throughout the next phases of the consultation process."

'Tariff threat'

Mr Quinn said Honda had rejected Unite's alternative plan which would have kept the plant open and protected an estimated 15,000 direct Honda employees and workers in the supply chain.

"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," he said.

"Unite can only conclude 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."

Honda said the move was due to global changes in the car industry and the need to launch electric vehicles, but it had nothing to do with Brexit.

'Devastating decision'

Business Secretary Greg Clark said he was "clearly disappointed" the outcome of Honda's consultation was to close the plant "despite the best efforts of civic and business leaders as well as trade union representatives and Honda UK workers".

Mr Clark who chaired the initial Honda Swindon taskforce said "everything is being done to support those affected".

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted: "The Government must do everything it can to ensure Honda reconsiders this devastating decision."

Unite regional secretary Steve Preddy said: "Workers were shunted into a room and shown a DVD confirming the plant closure. 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."

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