The local economy in Swindon received a boost today after Honda recruited 500 more staff, taking the total workforce to 3,500. The firm says it has hired the new workers at the South Marston site in response to increased demand for a new model on its production line, the Civic hatchback.
With the expansion of the workforce and the introduction of an extra shift, Honda is hoping that the factory will be able to double production to around 180,000 cars in 2012. The new jobs were announced in December 2011, prompting the prime minister to praise Honda for ‘contributing to a real renaissance in the UK automotive industry.’
But the company’s UK operation has been beset with challenges in the last 12 months, after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan caused problems with the supply chain and workers in Swindon had to scale back to just two days a week on the factory floor. Months later, floods in Thailand where the company has factories producing electrical components, meant UK staff had to work reduced hours from September to November.
Things are back on track, however, and Honda’s investment in its UK factory follows other major car manufacturers: Jaguar Land Rover created 1,000 jobs in its Halewood plant (for which 35,000 people applied), and Indian steel giant Tata announced that it will invest £800m in its Welsh plants over the next five years, securing at least 1,700 jobs.
While Britain can’t easily compete with the low wages and government subsidies in the developing markets, Honda’s investment in the British labour market shows that our manufacturing heritage and expertise remain valuable commodities. Let’s hope we see a few more of Honda’s peers getting on the expansion bandwagon and investing in UK plc…