WORKERS at Honda downed tools at lunchtime yesterday causing the production line to come to a standstill.

Between 50 and 60 staff walked out accusing bosses of trying to make them work longer than agreed after management changed their minds about a noon finish time.

Some complained they were threatened with disciplinary action if they left their posts.

One worker told the Advertiser that management had agreed last Wednesday that the shift would end at noon today.

But yesterday they were told they would have to work until 1.15pm on an American contract.

“Some people had made arrangements for picking up their children,” said the worker, who did not want to be identified.

“The schools are closing.”

Others had organised dentist and hospital appointments or were due to be caring for their children while partners went to work.

“A major concern is the style of management to try and force people, to threaten them if they do not do what the company wants.”

He said the incident was just one in a series and that the relationship between workers and management at the plant, which employs over 3,000 people and makes around 120,000 cars a year, was badly strained.

“Everyone is doing more for less. They have the most flexible workforce I would suggest, but this is one example of many examples and there is a lot of unhappiness on the shopfloor.”

One worker leaving the plant said: “First of all they said if anyone goes they would be punished. After that they changed their mind when the union got involved and then they said they wouldn’t be punished.”

After the walkout staff who had remained behind were told they could go if they wanted.

Another said staff had gone to work in the morning not knowing what time they could finish.

Earlier this year Unite warned the company was risking a total breakdown in relations and claimed management was treating staff with contempt.

It cited concerns that staff had had to fight for correct overtime payments and even for access to drinking water.

The union claimed said it had been obstructed from representing workers at disciplinary or grievance meetings and said Honda needed to “enter the 21st Century with the rest of the industry.”

Honda told the Advertiser: “During busy periods we sometimes ask for additional flexibility from our production teams in order to meet the demand for our products.

“We recognise that the ongoing commitment and support of our workforce is critical to our success and always consider work-life balance when making operational decisions that might affect working patterns.”

  • Ashley Hunt and Caroline Ryder, two of those shown in our photograph, have asked us to clarify that they were leaving work at Honda as usual and we are happy to make this clear.