The proposed closure of the Swindon Honda plant would have a devastating impact on the local economy. Although 3,500 jobs are directly on the line it will impact on the supply chain, possibly a similar or higher number. For instance another local company makes their car seats. The workers learned about the proposed closure not from the company but in the media.
Initially the response of the political parties was to accept the closure as a fait accompli. For the Tory MPs it was very sad news. A resolution was tabled for Thursday's council meeting which regretted the closure but talked about helping redundant workers find other jobs. The resolution was to be moved by a Tory councillor and seconded by the Labour Group leader.
However, UNITE's attendance at a task force set up to help the redundant workers changed the whole dynamic. UNITE made it clear in a “very impassioned presentation” (in the words of the Council leader) that they were not going to accept closure. They would fight to keep the plant open.
The local paper then announced that the Council and the Minister Greg Clark were fully behind the workforce's fight to keep the plant open! The resolution was amended accordingly.
Andy Foster, a union representative and worker on the assembly line for 20 years, told the local paper:
“We are not going to lay down and take the factory closure. We are putting a case forward to save Honda. We are not talking about redundancies, let’s talk about saving the plant. Swindon will be destroyed. It’s not just 3,500 jobs in the factory, it could be 10,000 or more.”
Steve Turner, Unite assistant general secretary, said:
"We heard today that we will be given that support from the business secretary, Greg Clark MP and we will be taking him at his word on this. We need central government, local and regional authorities, as well as innovative supply chain partners to join us in developing a viable alternative plan that maintains both Honda in Swindon and the UK automotive industry as a jewel in the crown of UK manufacturing. "In doing so, we will be sending a clear message back to Japan that we are not giving up on our plant and we will not let Honda give up on it either. Honda, do not turn your back on this plant, its loyal, skilled workforce or the superb integrated supply chain. Honda can thrive in the UK not just supplying European markets, but as a global leader exporting a world class product across the globe."
is the Secretary of Swindon Tenants Campaign Group