The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 5th April 2019

Honda workers march for jobs

by Alex Kempshall

THOUSANDS of Honda workers and their families along with trade unionists from across the country marched and rallied in Swindon last Saturday to protest and fight against the proposed closure of the Honda plant in the Wiltshire town. They called on the Japanese company to continue production at the Swindon plant that employs over 3,500 workers.

At the rally Len McCluskey, the Unite General Secretary, said his union had no intention to allowing the company to close this significantly profitable plant. He said that the company would never have dreamt of doing this to workers in Japan and that Honda should show the same dignity to their Swindon workers as they would do to Japanese workers.

There are 3,500 Swindon workers and thousands more in the supply chain wondering what their future is, and this in a town with only 10,500 manufacturing jobs. The Honda plant is vitally important to our manufacturing base in general, and he demanded that the government step up to the mark and get Honda to treat the workers with respect.

He thanked those who had come from all over the country and from Europe to show their solidarity with the Swindon workers. That solidarity builds hope. When working people come out on the streets to make their voices heard then people do sit up and take notice, and Honda will be made aware that we won’t lie down and allow them to walk all over us.

John Cooper, Chair of Unite’s Automobile National Industrial Sector Committee and also the Unite Convenor at the Vauxhall Plant at Ellesmere Port, said that Unite’s 100,000 car workers would fight to save every job and fight to stop Honda ripping the heart out of Swindon.

He said that we will not allow it because we remember one of the oldest slogans of our union — “an injury to one is an injury to all” — and warned that if we allow Honda to walk away from Swindon then every boss in every boardroom will think they can do the same, and every car worker from Vauxhall in Ellesmere Port to BMW in Cowley to Nissan in Sunderland will be the weaker for it.

John said that together let’s build a wall of solidarity, let’s build a political and industrial campaign that protects the jobs put at risk by Honda’s intention to exit the UK.

Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary, told the rally that the Swindon workers were a world-class work force and that the plant was a world-class plant that’s worth fighting for.

She went on to remind us that the wider economic consequences of the closure would be absolutely devastating, with £15 billion knocked of Britain’s GDP [gross domestic product], £48 million lost in tax that could be going to our NHS and public services.

Rebecca promised that Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell would fight with the Honda workers. It’s not only about keeping one plant open, it’s about recognising that manufacturing is not just in our national DNA but key to our economic destiny. Over the last few decades it’s manufacturing, not services, that has led the productivity growth in our economy. With the right support, the right investment in manufacturing, we could transform our economy. We need to re-industrialise not de-industrialise Britain.

She went on to say that if Honda want an electric vehicle market, well let’s give them one. We invest in the infrastructure that will spur on that investment with vehicle charging points in every village, town and city. We incentivise people to buy electric vehicles and other low carbon vehicles. We should use the huge power that government and our public services have to buy their vehicles from Honda and other British manufacturers. The biggest thing that governments can do is to support our own industry and workers here in Britain. We need government support to go across the supply chain especially in relation to battery technology, we don’t want those jobs to go overseas, we want to make those batteries here. To create more jobs, a bigger supply chain with a better future for all.

Honda said in February that it was going to close the Swindon factory in 2021 as part of restructuring plans. Production started in 1989 and the plant makes 150,000 vehicles per year.