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Workers talk of ‘feeling numb’ after grim announcement at Honda Swindon
6:31pm Friday 11th January 2013 in News
Blue shift were the first to be played the video message from the car giant’s UK director Kim Bellamy at midnight on Thursday, with the final crews attending divisional meetings of up to an hour yesterday morning.
Mr Bellamy spoke of a ‘restructuring’ which had already been the subject of rumours for some time, but that did little to numb the shock at the sheer scale of the cuts which will mean at least 800 jobs axed by the spring.
As hundreds of associates at the two main plants and associated workshops filed out between shifts at lunchtime yesterday, an air of resignation prevailed.
Phil Beckett, a process engineer, emerged from the engine plant to be greeted by a media scrum. The 56-year-old, from Stratton, said: “This has been brewing for a while and we already knew the climate was not very good, but people are still a little bit shocked and a little bit stunned.
“I think we’re all just numb and are waiting to see what will happen.
“Honda have been good to me for the past 23 years and they’ve always been very fair with people, so if this is the way it’s got to go, then this is way it’s got to go. I’m not sure about my future and I don’t think anyone else is. It’s a bit difficult to judge the mood, but it’s not all doom and gloom.”
Dan Alford, a 19-year-old general associate, was still digesting the news as he walked out of Plant 2 on his way home to Covingham. “We were all a bit shocked really,” he said.
“We have got an uncertain future but there is very little we could do about it. The mood was a bit miserable but we are just going to have to sit it out and see what happens.”
Malcolm Hanley, a general associate who started working for Honda in 2007, told of his shock as he arrived for his shift.
He said: “I’m gutted, it’s my work and I don’t know what I’m going to do.
“If I’m getting fired, where am I going to go? What am I going to do?”
Another general associate, who asked not to be named, faced the prospect of his 12-month rolling contract coming to an end.
But he told of how workers in Plant 2 put a brave face on the news – and even cracked jokes after the announcement was made.
“A lot of people were quite jovial and tried to put a smile on things and just get through it,” he said.
“We can’t change anything, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens, so there’s no need to be worried. In many ways it was like any other day with people making jokes and taking the mickey.
“ I came into it on a 12-month contract hoping for the best and I’ve been able to work for 12 months.”
Colin Brain, who works at the engine site as a floating operator, said the announcement had come as a big surprise, particularly because it was not long ago that the company announced a new multi-million pound investment programme.
“We heard last night, because we were on shift,” he said.
“It was a bit of a shock. We don’t really know what is going on at the moment, it’s not really sunk in. We’re going to try and do as best we can now, and hopefully get more questions answered today.”
Mr Brain, who has worked for Honda for 15 years, added: “It seems like one minute they’re your best friend and the next minute they don’t like you very much. It’s very strange, and they don’t seem to tell you much until the very end, and it’s been like that for the past three or four years now.”
Dad-of-two Ben Day, who lives in Swindon town centre, was one of the temporary Honda workers taken on last October to cope with the launch of the new Honda Civic.
He had hoped for a permanent contract in March, but is among about 300 agency staff from GI group who Honda says were never going to be kept on once the period was up – despite claims by Unite union that they should be considered as part of the overall job losses.
Mr Day, 27, said: “Before Christmas we were being told double shifts were coming in for the next 18 months, but when we came back after the break the rumours were flying.
“I always knew there were no guarantees my contract would be extended, but I was hopeful.
“I don’t know what I am going to do now, but it’s worse for the long-timers.”
Away from the cameras, however, some workers did take aim at their bosses.
One associate, who attended the second phase of announcements on the night shift, said: “It is terrible, this is not a decision that you come up with overnight and we were kept in the dark. We were called into a meeting at 12.45am and in 10 minutes they told us what was happening.
“To be told in just 10 minutes was terrible and the morale is very low, it is just unbelievable.”
Both plants are going down to single shifts and a 21-day consultation period will take place once staff representatives have been appointed , a process normally taking two weeks.
But the worst is yet to come. The redundancies are likely to take place in mid-April, with sources saying there will be few employees willing to walk out of the door.