The front of the Save Honda Swindon march on Fleming Way
THOUSANDS of people marched through the streets of Swindon under rays of glorious sunshine to protest the proposed closure of the town’s Honda plant.
A huge crowd of Honda workers, Swindon borough and parish councillors, representatives of unions from around the country and abroad, and supportive Swindon residents gathered at the County Ground to hear a speech from Unite general secretary Len McCluskey before setting off towards GWR Park.
Mr McCluskey said: “We’ve got no intention of allowing this company to close this plant…this world class workforce has delivered fantastic profit. This company would never have dreamt of doing that in Japan, their home country. If they think we’re just going to roll over, they’ve got another thing coming. Keep optimism and hope in your hearts. We will make sure not a single stone will be unturned.”
Onlookers stopped in their tracks to watch as streets usually packed with Saturday morning car congestion were filled with a flood of people dressed in red and white, waving signs and banners, blaring horns, shouting chants and cheers, all led by Unite’s brass band.
Save Honda Swindon marchers made their way along the Magic Roundabout, Fleming Way, Princes Street, Commercial Road, Milton Road and Faringdon Road, with a rolling roadblock ensuring that the roads were reopened as soon as they’d passed through safely.
Justin Tomlinson, MP for North Swindon, said: “Both myself and Robert Buckland MP will continue to support every and any effort that helps encourage Honda to reconsider. We have worked constructively with the Unions and their march provides another very clear message to Honda. We have an experienced, hardworking and skilled workforce – the whole town fully supports them.”
Gary Jones, 53, a Unite shop steward, has worked for Honda for the last 19 years. He said of news of the closure: “It came as a bolt out of the blue. Nobody was expecting it.”
He’s part of the team fighting to keep the plant open: “Where’s there’s a chance, there’s hope.”
Honda workers Simon Davis, 46, added of the potential closure of the plant: “It’s going to be devastating for the town.”
Former Mayor of Swindon and retired long-serving councillor Derique Montaut said: “Clearly they’ve let us down and kicked us between the legs on this particular issue. We committed ourselves to them as a progressive employer, they said very clearly that there would be a job for life if their employees show commitment but now we see people being thrown on the scrapheap.”
The march concluded with a rally at GWR Park which included speeches from Swindon Mayor Junab Ali, Unite’s assistant regional secretary Steve Turner, chair of Unite’s automotive committee John Cooper, Paddy Brennan, Honda worker Anthony Fernandez, Terry Dickinson from Honda UK Logistics, and Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey.
Swindon singer-songwriter Josh Kumra performed a set that included his number 1 hit, aptly titled ‘Don’t Go’.
Wiltshire Police were pleased to announce that the march had been peaceful and without incident.
Assistant Chief Constable Gavin Williams said: “Today’s protest march was very amicable.
“My officers who were in attendance along with marshals from other agencies were on hand to help anyone needing assistance – however, I am pleased to say that the event went off without incident.
“Today has shown joined up partnership working at its best.
“I would like to thank those who took part in the march for doing so peacefully and also thank the shoppers and those travelling in and around Swindon town centre as well as local businesses for their patience if their journey or day was disrupted in any way.”