Thousands are marching in Swindon to urge car giant Honda to rethink the closure of its UK plant which will result in the loss of 3,500 jobs.
In a shock announcement last month, the Japanese firm said it had plans to close the plant in 2021.
On Saturday, workers and supporters of the plant in Swindon joined community leaders and politicians amid warnings of the huge impact on jobs the closure would have.
The Unite union warned that if the plan goes ahead, Honda will cease operations in Swindon in 2021, causing 3,500 job losses at the factory as well as thousands of workers in the supply chain.
In a speech at the march, Unite’s general secretary Len McCluskey said: “We demand British workers are treated with equal dignity as the Honda workers in Japan”.
Unite’s regional officer Alan Tomala, who used to work at the Honda plant, said his former colleagues are “extremely worried” by the news.
He told Sky News: “This is a marching rally for Honda, by Honda, which is bringing together workers from the plant, the supply chain and the wider local community with clear messages: Swindon needs Honda, and the local and wider economy needs Honda as much as Honda needs its highly-skilled, highly-motivated workforce”.
Workers across the country in Wales, the Midlands and the South East rely on contracts from Honda.
The closure of the Swindon plant is the latest of a series of recent blows to the UK’s car industry.
Ford previously announced plans to cut jobs when it combines the headquarters of Ford UK and Ford Credit to a site in Essex.
Earlier this year, Nissan cancelled plans to build its new X-Trail at is Sunderland plant.
Unite claim 130 manufacturing jobs are being lost every day amid the huge uncertainty over Brexit and the fall in sales of cars.
The group’s assistant general secretary, Steve Turner, said Unite is “determined to fight” to keep Honda in Swindon.
“This is a world class plant with a loyal, dedicated workforce that have earned and deserve a secure future.”
He added that the shift towards electric vehicles “should signal a strong, secure, long-term future for Honda in Swindon” and that the plant has a “bright future”.
Unite’s regional secretary Steve Preddy added that the threat of the Swindon plant’s closure “couldn’t come at a worse time”.
“It would be a tragedy if Honda walks away from a town that has given that company so much, sending a loyal workforce to the dole queue. We can’t and won’t let that happen,” he added.
The company cited “unprecedented changes in the global automotive industry” when it announced its decision.
In a statement about Saturday’s march, Honda said: “We recognise this is an unsettling time for our associates and the local community.
“We are consulting on this proposal with our associates and their representatives. It is not appropriate to pre-empt the outcome of this consultation or comment on its activities.”