THE top union leader at the Honda plant has been suspended.

Paddy Brennan represents thousands of workers at the car plant, but was yesterday revealed to have been have been put on paid suspension by the company.

The move came just hours before the factory’s two-week summer shutdown began at the end of Friday, last week.

The reasons for the suspension are unclear, with Honda refusing to comment and his Unite union claiming to be left in the dark. Mr Brennan also refused to comment.

But the move has been condemned as an attack on the trade union itself, which represents around 1,500 of the 3,000 staff at the plant, and Unite has pledged to do “everything in its power” to back him.

Tony Murphy, Unite’s national officer for the car industry, said: “We don’t know what the charges are, but a number of recent incidents on site indicate there’s an attack on trade unions at Honda.

“The company states it has neutrality in its role with trade unions. What is factual is those attacks on the union, Paddy and other stewards are connected to a possible attack on existing terms and conditions of employment.

“If we haven’t got the union on site, it’d be easier to change things.”

He said there has been a ratcheting up of pressure in recent months, with a de-recognition bid for the union appearing to have the tacit support of the company, and a clampdown on holding meetings during company time or even posting bulletins on noticeboards.

In London, the RMT trade union recently threatened four days of strike action on the underground after two of its union representatives were sacked. It was called off when the pair were reinstated.

But Mr Murphy would not go into details of exactly what action his union may take at the Honda plant.

He said: “We’re hopeful it can be resolved amicably. If not, as you say Paddy Brennan is one of our senior people, and we’ll do everything in our power to protect him. There will be ramifications.”

Meanwhile, Mr Brennan’s case has been taken up by the National Shop Stewards’ Network, a campaign group for trade union representatives, which called the move “a provocative attack on a prominent trade union fighter and by extension an attack on the right to organise at Honda”.

Spokeswoman Linda Taaffe said: “We believe it’s over some minor misdemeanour. But the real reason of course is to try and render ineffective the trade union activities at the factory.”

A spokesman for Honda simply said: “Honda doesn’t comment on individual associates’ cases.”