Jobs at risk for Swindon Honda workers as production is cut

By Anita Jaynes on 25 March, 2014

Car manufacturer Honda plans to cut production at its Swindon plant, putting 340 jobs at risk.

Production demand is down due to poor European sales and workers were told that the plant would be revising its shifts from three to two, with a loss of jobs including 140 temporary positions.

Similar cuts were made in 2013 with 600 jobs lost in the town.

Honda has been building cars in Swindon since 1992. Models rolling off the production line include the Civic, Jazz and CR-V for the UK and European markets.

Most of the cars built at the plant – as much as 90 percent – are exported, and the firm said the recovery in European market had not been as strong as in the UK.

“Over the last 12 months, we haven’t seen the growth we’d anticipated. With no increase forecast for the next couple of years, we must scale our manufacturing activity accordingly,” said Ian Howells, senior vice president of Honda Motor Europe.

“However, with the restructuring we’re taking today, and our new model plans, we remain confident in the long-term future of our Swindon plant.”

“Our Swindon operation continues to be the hub for our European car manufacturing activity.”

Last week, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reported that UK car manufacturing for the domestic market was down by 20 percent year-on-year.

However, the larger export market was up 3.5 percent, giving an overall decline of 2.7 percent – 133,730 cars.

Commenting on the announcement, Ian Larrard, director of The Initiative in Swindon & Wiltshire, part of Business West said: “We understand the serious situation the factory in Swindon is currently experiencing, and the difficult decisions which have had to be made regarding more jobs at risk.

“Despite the restructuring that will take place, we note the confidence from Honda placed in the Swindon factory, which remains as its hub for European car manufacturing, with the need to align production numbers with reduced but now stable sales volumes.

“The immediate issue is to work with the Company to ensure that full support is given both for their manufacturing operations in Swindon, but to also support the 340 associates that may be impacted by this decision.

“Amongst the help Business West will be able to provide will be face to face support for associates who are interested in starting their own business including details of the Ready for Business programme and information on Start-Up loans.

“Previously Business West has supported a Task Force to help affected employees and we will work with local organisations again utilising our knowledge and contacts across the region.”

Meanwhile trade unions called the announcement “devastating” and warned that further jobs could be lost as the move hit the supply chain.

Tony Murphy, Unite national officer for car manufacturing said: “There is no getting away from it, these job losses are a devastating blow, not just for these workers but for the thousands more across the industry whose work is dependent on the Honda plant.

“The losses are also a wake-up call to the UK government. The economy is far too fragile to proclaim a recovery – those workers losing their jobs today will find claims that the country is turning a corner an insult.

“The truth is that there is simply no pick up in the incomes of Honda’s customers, either here or in the eurozone. People are not confident and do not have the cash to spend. That is something which must give the government serious cause for concern.

“Decent, skilled jobs are being lost today and investment is being withdrawn. We cannot allow workers of this expertise to be dispatched to the dole queue – the country needs their skills if we are to power our country back to economic health.

“Unite is determined to do all we can to save these jobs and skills. It is vital that national government joins us in the fight for manufacturing. I appeal to Vincent Cable today to work with us to find ways of persuading Honda to think again on jobs and investment into this country.”