Topsy-turvy Honda Closes UK Factory
Despite the upbeat sales report from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders in the UK reporting output growth in the UK, the topsy-turvy saga that has plagued the car giant’s time at South Marston, near Swindon, seems to have finally come to an abrupt end. The announcement has been made that car plant two will be closing leading to the loss of some 500 jobs; these job losses follow on from the 592 job losses last year.
Honda has been based in Swindon since 1992 and have about 3,000 workers based at the South Marston plant building the Civic, Jazz and CR-V for the European markets. This is not the first time that there has been large scale lay-offs at the plant; in 2009, the plant shut for about four months after a slump in sales, during which time the then 4,500 workers were sent home with pay.
There have been other temporary shutdowns at the plant due to flooding in Thailand and the tsunami in Japan, and then earlier in this year, manufacturing was halted when ships delivering manufacturing parts were delayed by severe weather, which prevented the ships from docking at Southampton.
Ian Howells, from Honda, said, ‘Over the last 12 months, we haven’t seen the growth we’d anticipated.’ Howells, who is senior vice president of Honda Motor Europe, said that with ‘no increase forecast’ for the next couple of years, the company must ‘scale our manufacturing activity accordingly.’
‘We’ve looked very closely at alternatives but we’re faced with a market which at best is growing very, very slowly and we’re just producing too many cars at the moment for that demand,’ he said.
‘It’s been a very difficult decision to take but we’re starting with a release programme that is voluntary and if that does not progress in the way we hope we may be looking at statutory or compulsory redundancies.’
According to Howells, 340 “permanent associates” will go over the next two to three months along with a number of temporary staff, who were already ‘phased to be fully released by the end of the year’.
Unite union spokesman, Jim D’Avila, said it was a ‘blow that would be very, very deeply felt. It’s very sad news. We were able, 18 months ago, to deal with those surpluses with just a minimum of compulsory redundancies but the likelihood is we won’t be able to achieve that this time round.’ As well as cutting shifts, Honda is also planning to move production to one line in an attempt to ‘improve production flexibility and efficiency’.
Honda Manufacturing of the UK said it will be entering into consultation on the proposed job cuts, but initially would cut one of the three shifts.