Unite, Britain’s largest union, has told the car manufacturer Honda it is “treating employees with contempt” and risks a total breakdown in relations.
The union – which has strong relations and working agreements with all the main automotive manufacturers including Toyota and Nissan – says Honda must now “catch up with the rest of the industry”.
The warning came after union reps at the plant in Swindon – where the Civic and CR-V are produced – highlighted numerous issues of concern in regard to positive industrial relations the Wiltshire site which operate across the UK automotive industry.
Unite shop stewards have been refused permission by managers to attend meetings, and say they have been obstructed efforts to represent employees at disciplinary or grievance headings.
Stewards have also had to fight for the correct payment of overtime rates and even campaign for employee access to drinking water.
Reps have reported a failure of company human resources to properly investigate legitimate grievances and a failure to respond to emails from Unite officers.
Unite has previously fought off a bid by the company to de-recognise the union, accusing Honda of mounting a campaign aimed at ‘minimising the influence of the union and workers’ pay’.
There are also serious concerns over health and safety issues at Honda, Unite having recently been in touch with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) over a “bad near miss”.
Tony Murphy Unite national officer for car manufacturing, said: “The UK automotive industry is a real success story based on good industrial relations, and employers and union reps working together. Sadly Honda pay lip service to the union, its reps and its own workforce. The company needs to enter the 21st century with the rest of the industry.
“Honda appears to be muddling along from crisis to crisis, then expecting the union to step in and put things right.”
The Wiltshire site employs nearly 3,500 people and produces 120,000 cars a year, though it once topped 250,000 before the global recession in 2008.
Nissan makes almost half a million cars in Sunderland, slightly fewer than the UK’s biggest car manufacturer, Jaguar Land Rover; while Toyota make close to 200,000 units in this country.
Murphy added: “Our relations with the other automotive companies are excellent, including Toyota where we have just signed a new operating agreement and Nissan where we are currently in talks.
“Honda’s attitude towards us can be highlighted by the fact that over the last five years the company has got rid of every senior member of HR who has tried to genuinely work with the union.
“Also the health and safety on site leaves much to be desired. We recently had to call the HSE after a very bad near miss.
“Both the members and the union have reached the end of the line and will not hesitate to do whatever it deems necessary to force Honda to meet our aspirations to be an equal partner and to have a proper say in the terms and conditions of our members. This includes working conditions and the health and safety of the employees.”
For more information please contact Unite press officer, Douglas Beattie, on 07815 703617 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors:
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.