SWINDON residents turned out in their thousands on Saturday’s march to save the Honda car factory and stop its closure.
There were 6,000 on the march, with thousands more lining the streets, coming out of their shops and businesses and out of the pubs to cheer the march on as it passed.
A delegation of carworkers from a Honda plant in Belgium travelled over to join the march and show their support.
As the march assembled at Swindon Town football ground, Honda worker Terry Shengold told News Line: ‘I am a back loader at the Honda plant. I am up for the fight. Where will I get another job if this factory closes down? I am 57, who is going to employ me? How can I get another job? I am up for this all the way. Occupying the factory is the only way. We will shut the doors and not leave and say save my job. This is the best job I have ever got into and I am going to fight for my job.’
At a rally by the football ground, Unite leader Len McCluskey said: ‘The Honda workers here in Swindon have been treated absolutely shockingly by the Japanese firm. They would never have treated their workforce in Japan like that. The UK workforce must be treated equally. There are 3,500 jobs at risk at the factory and a further 17,000 in the supply chain. We will be travelling with the government to Japan to speak to the highest officials at Honda and press them to keep the factory open. My message is one of hope. The government must step up to the mark and Honda must treat us the same way they treat their own workforce.’
Matej Podany, who works in the Honda logistics supply chain told News Line: ‘We get parts from different companies, different suppliers and then supply them to Honda, exactly what they need, when they need it. Every single company has different contracts with other companies. Some suppliers have 75% of contracts with Honda. The closure will put them in serious trouble. A lot of parts come from abroad. There could be 30,000 jobs at risk across Europe or maybe globally all at threat as a result of the closure of this one factory. Honda can’t build a single car without logistics.
‘If we stopped work for one day, they could not build anything that day. Strike is our weapon, strike is a strong move. We are going to show that the workforce is strong. This is not just about our jobs, it is about the whole community. That is why there has to be coordinated action across the entire supply chain.’
Ringo Jackson aged 42, who has worked for Honda for 14 years said: ‘We heard about the closure from Sky News. It was not until the next day that Honda made a statement. When we found out we were shocked and devastated. There is a fight on and we are going to stop the closure, that is why we are here today.’
Mark Carter an ex-council worker and Unison member said: ‘I am here on behalf of the Swindon Trades Council. If you do not fight you lose. If you fight you may win. This is not a massive town. If 3,500 people lose their jobs, it will affect the whole town, shops will shut, pubs will shut, businesses will go under. People will leave Swindon in search of jobs. There has to be the will to sort this out otherwise there will be loads of problems. If Honda workers call industrial action, other unions must come out to support them.’
The march was led by a brass band and a massive banner. There were huge Unite balloons, Trade council banners, the firefighters had their banner, and other unions including PCS, Unison and the CWU.
The Young Socialists had a banner and delegation on the march and Honda workers joined in shouting their slogans: ‘Defend every job! Nationalise now!’, ‘Save Honda factory! Occupy Now!’ and ‘No cuts! No closures! Kick this government out!’
The rally in the park at the end of the march was addressed by Unite leader Steve Turner, Labour Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey and shop stewards from the plant including Anthony Fernandez, Terry Dickinson and Paddy Bennon.
Patrick, a Honda worker from Belgium said: ‘Swindon is the first domino stone, the next domino stone will fall in Europe, the plants in Italy, in Spain, in France or in Gant, where I am from, will be next. That is why I am here in solidarity. This plant has to stay with the Swindon workers!’