Honda workers join protest in Swindon against factory closure

Hundreds of Honda workers have taken to the streets in Swindon to protest against the closure of the car manufacturer’s factory in the town.

A spokesman for the Unite union said thousands of people had come from across the country and mainland Europe to join the march after the Japanese firm announced it intends to close the plant by 2021.

Around 3,500 people in Swindon are set to lose their jobs if the factory closes, with a knock-on effect on more than 15,000 workers in the supply chain across the UK, according to Unite.

A Unite spokesman said: “The thing for us is sending a message to Honda in Japan that this is a community that won’t sit back and allow car manufacturing in the town to end.

“There’s a real upbeat atmosphere and people are firmly of the belief that there is an alternative and the plant can stay open.”

A spokesman for Honda said the company recognises it is an “unsettling time” for the community and it is considering proposals, but he stressed “it is not appropriate to pre-empt the outcome”.

When the company announced the proposed closure in February it said the move came as part of efforts to increase production of electric cars.

Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, said the manner in which workers found out about the planned closure was “nothing short of disgraceful”.

Addressing protesters before the march set off on Saturday, he said: “We’ve got no intention of allowing this company to close our plant.

“For nearly 35 years this world-class workforce has delivered a fantastic profit and significant profitability for this company.

“We have strong viable alternatives to put to the company and I’m pleased to say the Secretary of State (for business) Greg Clark has committed his support to the alternatives.

“We’ll be travelling to Japan with the Government in order to meet the highest individuals in Honda and press them once again to keep the plant open.”

Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey also spoke at the march and said Labour would urge the Government to support an electric vehicle and green fuel market in the UK.

James Lenihan, a partner at Thompsons Solicitors in Bristol which he said has a long history of acting on behalf of Unite members at Honda’s Swindon plant, attended the march and said the turnout was “fantastic”.

He said: “People have travelled for miles to be here today, all with the same message. Save the jobs, save the supply chain and keep the UK at the forefront of advance manufacturing.

“We have seen the impact of closures and what it does to the local communities, time and time again. There is everything for them to lose and nothing for them to gain.”

The Honda spokesman said: “We recognise this is an unsettling time for our associates and the local community. We are consulting on this proposal with our associates and their representatives. It is not appropriate to pre-empt the outcome of this consultation or comment on its activities.”