PRODUCTION staff at Honda in South Marston are being allowed another week to decide if they wish to apply for voluntary redundancy at the firm, which is cutting jobs in May.

The deadline for applications is now 5pm on Tuesday, April 22. The 11-day extension aims to encourage more staff to apply.

Yesterday 171 employees had applied for redundancy – just over half the 340 permanent staff Honda is trying to shed.

Unite’s regional co-ordinating officer in Swindon, Jim D’Avila, believes the extra time could make a significant difference, along with a key change in the workers HUM is allowing to apply for the Associate Release Programme.

Until this week, Honda had said no production associates with good or better appraisal scores could apply to leave voluntarily.

“They have extended the criteria you must fulfil to apply, yet again. They are now saying anyone over 55, regardless of their appraisals can apply,” Jim said.

“They are halfway to their total of permanent staff needed, but this extension in time also includes people that weren’t previously invited.

“It’s not an insignificant number of over-55s now eligible. Other people who were on the verge and undecided before can now go away and look around to see what the job market looks like.

“Some people will be looking to take jobs outside of Swindon, which takes longer to arrange.”

Mr D’Avila stopped short of predicting more applicants would be guaranteed, with the jobs market not offering a lot of promise for those making use of the extra seven days.

“If we cast our minds back to last year, several hundred people volunteered to leave the business, but the current jobs market isn’t that brilliant,” he said.

“People, regardless of whether they would like to go or not, are trapped into paying mortgages and ensuring they can feed their children.

“No one’s going to leave to take up the option, unless they’re confident they can survive in the current market.”

If Honda is still short of the 340 permanent associates it needs to leave by next week, Jim said there are options other than compulsory redundancy.

He proposed filling jobs currently put out to contractors with employees currently under threat. He also said Honda might proceed with fewer redundancies than it first desired, if it is close enough to the 340 total.

A Honda spokeswoman said: “We hope the extra time helps our associates. Giving them a bit longer should make a difference.

“An extra week before the deadline also gives the task force more time to speak with associates who have questions before making any decision on their future.”

A third session with the task force will be held at the Swindon plant tomorrow between 1pm and 5pm.