Page last updated at 10:57 GMT, Monday, 1 June 2009 11:57 UK

Honda's production line restarts

Honda production line
Workers and management have all accepted pay cuts

Production at Honda's car factory in Swindon has restarted after a four-month shutdown but at about half its full capacity.

Thousands of workers have agreed to a 3% pay cut for the next 10 months with managers taking a 5% drop, after sales were hit by the economic downturn.

Some 1,300 people took voluntary redundancy, reducing the workforce to about 3,400.

Staff got full pay for two months of the shutdown and 60% for the remainder.

David Hodgetts, director of manufacturing at Honda UK, said tough decisions had been taken to try to ensure the plant's long term future.

"We'll only be working about 50% of our full capacity.

"We have tried our best to protect jobs. There's been no compulsory redundancies at all at Honda, and that's the biggest objective we had throughout this period.

Honda factory worker: "It is great to be back"

"And hopefully that's what we're going to try and maintain through that action we've taken," he said.

Dr Peter Wells, a motor industry expert from Cardiff Business School, said the resumption of production was good for workers.

"It's a very good message in some respects for the nature of British worker relations with management in the car industry," he told BBC Radio Five Live.

"Both sides have been patient and both sides have tried to see this problem through.

"On the other hand, Honda is not going back into full production.

"They're going to start up the lines, but in this year they'll probably only produce half of what they really anticipated producing."

'Stuck to their word'

Mr Hodgetts added: "I think for most people it's the fact they've got a job, secure employment and that's what we've been trying to work for over the past few months.

"It's really important to Honda that we keep car manufacturing in the UK as we want to."

Andy Conlon has worked at the Honda plant in Swindon for the past 13 years.

"They've stuck to their word, there's been no (compulsory) redundancies so I'm very happy.

I think most people will be happy to put down the DIY and start building cars
Andy Conlon, Honda worker

"The uncertainty was difficult to deal with but good information came out so I was confident of what they were telling us and I think they've done what they could for us.

"I think most people will be happy to put down the DIY and start building cars," he said.

Another worker who returned to the factory on Monday said: "When we left in January, we wondered what was going on, but now we've gone through that period, hopefully we can push on. Let's hope we can get through this."

The plant will turn to producing the Honda Jazz from September.

The firm had hoped to produce 228,000 vehicles at Swindon this year.

Last November that projected figure was reduced to 175,000 when it was decided production would stop in February and March this year.

In mid-January, Honda said the shutdown would last through April and May as well, and the 2009 production figure has now been set at just under 113,000.

With production halted, Honda spruced up the Swindon plant, stripping and rebuilding assembly lines.

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