Honda has announced it will be shutting down its plant in Swindon and relocating its business elsewhere – but insisted the move is nothing to do with Brexit.
The Japanese car manufacturer announced it would be closing the plant in light of “unprecedented changes in the industry,” resulting in the loss of 3,500 jobs.
150,000 cars every year
The plant, which makes 150,000 cars every year, will be shutting down after it stops production of the current model of Honda Civic’s life cycle in 2021, a year earlier than it was expected to shut.
However, Honda Europe’s senior vice president Ian Howells told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This is not a Brexit-related issue for us.
“These other changes which are now coming at us globally we have to now respond to.”
In an announcement confirming the move, Honda’s chief officer for European Regional Operations and president Katsushi Inoue said the company needed to “restructure” its “electrification strategy”.
A ‘Leave Means Leave’ sign the Houses of Parliament with reference to the car manufacturer Honda, who announced today that they are to close their Swindon plant (Photo: Getty)
Mr Inoue said: “In light of the unprecedented changes that are affecting our industry, it is vital that we accelerate our electrification strategy and restructure our global operations accordingly.
“As a result, we have had to take this difficult decision to consult our workforce on how we might prepare our manufacturing network for the future. This has not been taken lightly and we deeply regret how unsettling today’s announcement will be for our people.”
The decision will come as a blow to car manufacturers in the UK after Nissan announced it would be producing its X-Trail model outside of the UK.
The company intended to produce the car in Sunderland, but said it would be moving production to Japan, resulting in the potential loss of up to 8,000 jobs.
Idiocy of epic proportions
Some workers, however, said they believe the move is due to the complexity of Britain’s negotiations to leave the European Union.
One worker, who had been employed by the plant for 24 years, called the move “idiocy of epic proportions”.
A man who has worked at Honda in Swindon for 24 years, on finding out his factory will close and 3,500 jobs will be lost. This is gut-wrenching. “They can’t even decide for themselves what Brexit means. This is idiocy of epic proportions.”pic.twitter.com/xfWS5V5VD0— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) February 19, 2019
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,
“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.”
‘Disappointed and surprised’
Swindon’s Tory MPs Justin Tomlinson and Robert Buckland said they were “disappointed and surprised” by the news, adding that job losses were not expected until 2021.
Speaking to ITN, Mr Buckland later urged the manufacturer to reconsider.
He said: “I think they should think again and I certainly would be ready to talk to them and anybody who cares to listen to make the case for Swindon as a strong centre for manufacturing.”
Business Secretary Greg Clark put Honda’s decision down to “unprecedented changes to the global market”.
“This news is a particularly bitter blow to the thousands of skilled and dedicated staff who work at the factory, their families and all of those employed in the supply chain,” he said in a statement.
“I will convene a taskforce in Swindon with local MPs, civic and business leaders as well as trade union representatives to ensure that the skills and expertise of the workforce is retained, and these highly valued employees move into new skilled employment,” he added.
Additional reporting by Press Association