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Honda bosses confirm Swindon closure: Unite must signal it will fight
Rob Williams, Socialist Party industrial organiser
As we go to press, car workers in Swindon are reeling from the news that Honda bosses have confirmed the closure of the Wiltshire plant in 2021.
Over 3,500 workers directly employed by the factory are facing redundancy. But in addition, over 12,000 employed in component and related companies and industries are affected. This is a catastrophe for Swindon in particular - a town of 180,000 people - and must be fought.
General union Unite had put forward an alternative plan to Honda that could have been the basis to safeguard the plant, but this has been rejected by senior management.
Inevitably, there will be shock within the workforce. But the impressive demonstration of thousands in the town at the end of March shows the potential to build a fight that can challenge and potentially overturn the closure decision.
On that demonstration, Unite plant convenor Paddy Brennan, speaking alongside his shop stewards, said: "This is the fight of our lives."
Socialist Party members have raised the need for Jeremy Corbyn to boldly call for the plant to be nationalised, to put Theresa May's weak and divided Tory government under pressure to intervene.
Corbyn could easily be prime minister before the plant closes in two years' time.
He should give a guarantee that under a Labour government led by him, the factory will be taken into public ownership to protect jobs, and demand that May gives the same commitment.
But industrial action will be necessary to build the pressure on both Honda and the Tories. Unite needs to signal now that the closure will be fought to the end.
The union needs to prepare the ground for a stoppage or a strike ballot that would show that workers will not accept the closure and will fight. Ultimately, the idea can be raised of occupying the plant to really raise the stakes.
In 1971, a previous Tory government nationalised Rolls-Royce, and months later was forced to intervene when workers at the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders conducted a working occupation and 80,000 marched in solidarity.
The union and the shop stewards have shown the workforce that they have been prepared to negotiate to save the plant. But Honda's decision has taken the fight into a new stage.
This now can only be won by a mass struggle, centred on the Honda workers, linking up with all the other workers who are dependent on the plant, and the whole community.
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