UNION leaders have set out their stall in redundancy negotiations with Honda – as it emerged workers on fixed-term contracts are having their periods of employment extended.

The Japanese car giant held a presentation for Unite officials at its plant in South Marston yesterday to explain its decision to axe 800 jobs at the facility.

The union wants to negotiate generous severance packages and also wants permanent employees’ jobs safeguarded over temporary workers and contractors.

Staff on 12-month contracts have been told they will have their periods of employment extended despite the cull – but will still be considered for redundancy.

A letter sent to one contract worker said his term of employment would be renewed for another 12 months on February 20 to enable him to be eligible for the same redundancy process as other employees.

The letter reads: “HUM [Honda of the UK Manufacturing] announced that it would be entering a period of statutory consultation with regard to a number of proposed redundancies.

“HUM also stated that regardless of their employment contract, associates would be subject to the same consultation and, if appropriate, consultation period in order for the process to take place fairly and equally, HUM will offer to extend your contract by a further 12 months.”

Honda has made the move in order to comply with employment law, but it comes after a long-serving worker told the Adver he feared cheaper temporary workers would be kept on at the expense of older, permanent associates.

The issue will be one raised by Jim D’Avila, Unite’s regional organiser, who has assembled a team ahead of the start of formal negotiations this week.

“We will be pressing Honda incredibly hard to minimise the number of compulsory redundancies,” he said.

“We’ll be pulling no punches under the banner of ‘Honda jobs for Honda associates’ to make sure that Honda workers are able to take over work currently carried out by contractors.

“We’ll also be insisting Honda offer a generous voluntary severance package for all workers, including new starters and old hands, and we’ll be looking at the working time account to see whether there’s any scope to reduce working time and protect jobs long-term.”

The negotiations begin in earnest on Thursday and the redundancies are expected to take place mid-April.

“The Unite team will be made up of all 14 shop stewards and headed by myself,” Mr D’Avila said.

“We are also calling in an additional three representatives to cover areas where previously we haven’t had much representation.

“The reps will have a three-day training course next week supplied by the union to cover all matters relation to redundancies.”

A spokesman for Honda said: “I can confirm the first consultation was attended by Honda of the UK Manufacturing, Unite and elected representatives from within the factory.”