Determined to save thousands of jobs, car manufacturing workers rallied with a range of trade union and anti-austerity groups against the planned plant closure, reports Sam Lees
The industrial manufacturing working class of Swindon mobilised in thousands yesterday to say “no” to Honda's plans to shut down the very profitable plant based there and move the operation to Japan, ironically, to take advantage of the tariff-free trade deal recently brokered with the EU.
In terms of the impact, there will be 3,500 jobs lost directly from the Honda plant closure, with up to 12,000 jobs under threat in the region and wider supply chain (for example, TS Tech in Swindon employs 500, and supplies Honda with seats for the Civic). With only 6,000 registered manufacturing skilled jobs in the Swindon area, this will no doubt have a devastating impact on the community.
The sense of local anger over this move really showed on the march. But there was also a sense of defiance, that ‘we will create a public relations nightmare for Honda - and Honda do not like bad publicity’ to paraphrase Len McClusky (General Secretary of the Unite union that organises workers at the plant) at the opening rally. There was confidence that this campaign will be successful amongst the crowds.
The main road from the Swindon Football club through the town centre to the park was closed down to make way for the march. National and local branch trade union delegations, People’s Assembly groups, and other anti-austerity groups from all over the country, and trade unionist Honda workers from Beligum came to show solidarity, share their victories, march with, and give confidence to the Swindon Honda workers and their families.
The march was very working-class and racially mixed, with a moving sense of solidarity and community. It coincided with clear skies which was a nice way to end with a great line up of speakers and music, including Swindon's own Josh Kumra, pop singer and songwriter of number one hit single 'Don't go', who spoke and performed. It was fantastic to see the working class movement back in the streets taking action!