Honda workers ‘devastated’ as Swindon plant faces axe
Honda is planning to close its plant in Swindon with the loss of more than 3,000 jobs.
Workers at the Wiltshire factory told the Press Association they were “devastated” by the announcement, which is expected to be confirmed by the Japanese car giant on Tuesday.
Honda failed to respond to repeated requests for a comment on Monday, and no reason for the decision has been given.
Swindon MPs Justin Tomlinson and Robert Buckland said they were “disappointed and surprised” by the news, which comes less than six months after Honda bosses pledged their support for the plant.
A statement on behalf of the Conservative duo, after a meeting on Monday afternoon with Honda and Business Secretary Greg Clark, said: “Honda have been very clear – this decision has been made because of the global trends and is not related to Brexit.
“Honda have told us today that they will be consulting with all staff and there is not expected to be any job losses or change in production until 2021.”
Staff in the Wiltshire town – which voted 55% in favour of Brexit in the 2016 referendum – said they were angry with the development.
One worker, who has been at the plant for 24 years, told the Press Association he blamed the closure on Brexit.
The Remain voter said: “Perfectly viable car plant operating for 30 years, no problem at all – as soon as Brexit comes along the plant needs investment.
“People like Justin Tomlinson, our MP, campaigned for this Brexit. He wanted Brexit – he gets to carry the can. If he’s not unseated by a massive majority at the next election then this town gets what it deserves.”
Asked how he felt about the news, the man replied: “Pretty hacked off, to be fair.”
Another man leaving the site said staff had not been warned about the announcement.
He said: “Devastated. That’s all I can say.”
Alan Tomala, regional officer for the Unite union, and a former employee at the plant between 1995 and 2007, said workers were “angry, dismayed and worried”.
“If the speculation is to be confirmed, 3,500 jobs are at risk,” Mr Tomala said.
“The usual formula is one job in the plant equates to four in the supply chain and the local economy. If closure is confirmed, it will rip the heart out of this area.”
He said the union represented more than 1,200 workers at the plant, and they had not been told if the rumours were correct.
“For employees, our members and the wider workforce, both in the plant and in the supply chain, to hear about this through the media I think is disrespectful and disgraceful,” Mr Tomala said.
“The workforce in there deserve better than that.”
The company employs about 3,500 people at the Swindon plant, building around 160,000 Civics a year, more than 90% of which are exported to Europe and the US.
The news comes a fortnight after Nissan told workers its next-generation X-Trail would be made in Japan and not Sunderland, as planned, despite the Government’s so-called sweetheart deal of up to £80 million to protect the firm from higher post-Brexit trade tariffs.
Labour MP Rachel Reeves, chairwoman of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee, said the closure would be “devastating for Swindon, for jobs, for the supply chain, and for the UK’s car industry”.
She added: “The threat of Brexit is already having a damaging impact on investment decisions in the UK. The PM now needs to rule out no deal immediately and keep us in the single market and customs union rather than risk further fatal damage to our car industry.”
Speaking in September, Ian Howells, senior vice-president of Honda Europe, said the company remained “right behind” its plant in Swindon and was not considering moving out of the UK after Brexit.
Honda was the first major Japanese car company to get involved in large-scale manufacturing in the UK when it did a deal with British Leyland in 1980 to produce Honda-based models in BL factories.
Work began on its plant in Swindon in 1985.