Car workers suffered another blow on 25 March, as Honda announced a plan to cut 360 permanent and 160 agency jobs from its Swindon plant.
The actual job losses suffered could be as high as 500, as businesses elsewhere in Honda’s supply chain are hit by the central cuts.
Unite described the job losses as “a devastating blow”, and “a wake-up call to the UK government”, but despite saying it was “determined” to save the jobs, the only concrete action proposed was an “appeal” to Vince Cable from Tony Murphy, the union’s national officer for car manufacturing, to “work with us to find ways of persuading Honda to think again on jobs and investment.”
Cosy chats with Vince and Tony are unlikely to make Honda think again about anything much. Industrial action, even at this late stage, might.
Honda’s announcement is the latest in a series of significant cuts to car manufacturing jobs in Britain, following the loss of 1,500 jobs at Ford plants in Dagenham and Southampton in 2012.
Although local unions organised demonstrations to object to the cuts, workers in the plants were not confident enough to take the kind of action that might have saved jobs — sit-down strikes and occupations.
The kind of confidence needed to take that action isn’t easy to build, but union leaders can help to build it by encouraging militant reps, stewards, and activists in factories and helping them agitate amongst their workmates, rather than restricting themselves to merely bemoaning the cuts and meekly appealing to Lib Dem ministers for help.
The local labour movement in Swindon can help by assisting reps and stewards at the plant and building a public, community campaign to demand that jobs are kept.