THIRTY per cent of the 1,800 workers at risk of losing their jobs at Honda are not being offered voluntary redundancy packages, according to Unite’s Jim D’Avila.

The union fired the first shots as battle lines were drawn at Honda’s plant in South Marston, where representatives from both sides sat down to negotiate the consultation process.

Mr D’Avila, Unite’s regional co-ordinating officer in Swindon, has said Unite are already at loggerheads with the car giant over how many workers will be offered Honda’s Associate Release Programme.

Honda has written to all 1,837 production associates at risk, but the top-performing 30 per cent, those who achieved high marks in recent appraisals, will not be allowed to leave voluntarily.

The car maker chose not to comment on discussions being held between its representatives and Unite, out of respect to those individuals involved in the consultation process.

The decision has been branded a “fix” and “corrupt” by Mr D’Avila, who also said the car giant has asked workers to begin overtime shifts, despite Tuesday’s announcement to release 500 workers.

“They are at risk of being accused of favouritism,” said Mr D’Avila. “They are abusing the system before it’s even started.

“If you are having a voluntary process and telling everybody at risk about it, it’s discriminatory to then leave out 200 to 300 workers.

“If they think we are going to sit there in two to three weeks time with only 200 volunteers of the 340 permanent staff needed, with 50 wanting to leave from the top 30 per cent, they are joking.

“People are telling us it’s corrupt, being done this way. You can’t fix the rules.

“We are talking about production associates, after four weeks they can all do the job competently.”

More than 550 workers agreed to voluntary redundancy terms at Honda in 2013, when 800 jobs were lost.

And Unite said it hoped the process would run as smoothly as last year, with a similar process to be taken forward.

“Last year we had all congratulated each other on how well the process went, but now they have completely changed it,” he said.

“They said some of the managers don’t want to see some of their better production workers go.

“I’m saying the workers have some justification saying it’s a fix and corrupt. This is a big bust-up before we have even got into the knockings of it.”

Mr D’Avila said Unite would send out its own documentation to those 30 per cent not being offered voluntary terms, to gauge feedback on how many would take terms if offered them.

The matter of overtime has also stung workers, who yesterday received letters detailing their precarious futures.

“People are offended now because you are asking for overtime. If there’s a need for overtime, why are you announcing redundancies?” said Mr D’Avila.

“Last year when Honda said they wanted overtime, they said it was immoral during the consultation period.

“We have said, if you don’t stop the overtime, we have no choice, but to go through with an industrial ballot banning overtime.”