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Honda workers join protest march against Swindon car factory closure

Honda workers join protest march against Swindon car factory closure

Hundreds of Honda workers in Swindon took to the streets on Saturday to demonstrate against the planned closure of their town’s car factory.

Thousands of people from across the country joined them on a protest march after the Japanese firm announced it intends to close the manufacturing plant by 2021.

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

“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,” said a Unite spokesman.

“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 recognised it was an “unsettling time” for employees in Swindon. But he also said “it is not appropriate to pre-empt the outcome” of different proposals under consideration.

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 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.

Mr McCluskey said union officials would be travelling to Japan with government representatives “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 prior to the march and said Labour would urge the government to support an electric vehicle and green fuel market in the UK.

Honda employees stage rally against planned closure of Swindon plant outside Parliament in early March (Reuters)

James Lenihan, a partner at Thompsons Solicitors in Bristol, which acts on behalf of Unite members at Honda’s Swindon plant, attended Saturday’s march and described the turnout as “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.”

A 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.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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