HUNDREDS of workers at a Cowley car parts maker were last night fearing for their jobs after car giant Honda axed 800 workers at its Swindon plant.
About 300 staff at the Honda-owned UYS exhaust factory in Garsington Road, where the plant is the sole client, have been left worrying over the impact of the Japanese manufacturer’s decision.
The job losses were blamed on poor demand for the cars in Europe.
Senior managers at UYS spent yesterday locked in meetings at Swindon and internally to assess the implications.
A plant spokesman said no decisions had been made and it would be next week before the situation became clear.
Almost exactly four years ago UYS shed up to 90 staff after the Honda plant at South Marston shut down for four months while remaining staff had their pay cut by up to 50 per cent.
Another parts supplier, Unipart, also in Cowley, declined to comment on the impact of the decision on its business.
Meanwhile, it is not known how many people from the county work at the Swindon plant but union leaders said it had employees from a 50-mile radius.
Union officials said that as well as the 800 full-time staff, 325 agency staff had also been laid off recently.
Unite union officer Jim D’Avila said: “The problem is that buyers of the Honda Civic are middle income people and they are being squeezed. They fear for their jobs and are losing benefits and tax credits, so their spending power is diminished.
“As a result, they are not buying mass-produced cars.”
Workers at the plant, which employs 3,500 people, were told the grim news as they arrived at work yesterday.
The 800 redundancies come less than a year after Honda recruited 500 new jobs as part of a £267m investment to help build two new cars in Swindon – the refreshed Civics and 4x4 CR-Vs. It is also building a new diesel engine.
Honda said demand for cars in Europe, including Spain, Italy and Greece, had fallen by a million in the past year.
The company gave the statutory 90-day notice of consultation and said it would seek to avoid compulsory redundancies. The job losses are expected to kick in by April.
Ken Keir, executive vice president of Honda Motor Europe, said: “Sustained conditions of low demand in European markets make it necessary to re-align Honda’s business structure.
“As such, Honda will enter into formal consultation with its associates to consider these changes and the proposal that it will reduce the workforce by 800 associates by spring 2013.
“Honda remains fully committed for the long term to its UK and European manufacturing operations. “However, these conditions of sustained low industry demand require us to take difficult decisions. We are setting the business constitution at the right level to ensure long-term stability and security.”
The Swindon plant only produces cars for the European market in contrast to the Cowley Mini plant which is assembling cars for more than 100 countries worldwide.
Mini vs Civic
THE Mini has always been bracketed as a “premium small car” aimed at young, affluent drivers meaning it has created its own market copied by manufacturers such as Fiat with the 500.
Significantly, the Cowley plant manufactures for more than 100 countries with strong sales in countries such as China and India.
Honda’s Civic produced at Swindon is a mass market hatchback competing with major manufacturers such as Ford, Vauxhall and Volkswagen.
The Swindon plant only manufactures for the European market and the car is built to predicted sales targets rather than to order.