SKILLED workers employed by Honda will receive letters today detailing offers from the car giant to give up their livelihoods.

The Japanese car giant yesterday announced 500 jobs will be axed from its 3,000-strong workforce at the South Marston plant.

A stunted demand for the vehicles made at the plant on the European market is behind the decision to release 340 permanent and 160 temporary production associates.

Every one of the associates working at Honda are now under threat of losing their jobs while considerations are given to the redundancy packages being offered.

Just under a year ago 800 job losses were announced at the Swindon plant, of which 554 took the voluntary redundancy package on offer.

Honda bosses expect there to be a similar uptake of the voluntary package this time around.

Jason Smith, a director at the Swindon plant, said: “All production associates will be put at risk initially while we open up an associate release programme, which is a voluntary scheme.

“We hope that will negate the requirement for compulsory redundancies.

“It will be an enhanced package, above the statutory level. In our last round of redundancies a large quantity took the voluntary package and we are expecting a similar uptake.”

Those at risk will have until April 11 to reply with a verdict on their future, with May 23 the planned release date for the 500 roles.

Workers can also expect to receive comprehensive support in their future job search, with CV and job interview workshops to be laid on by the car maker.

The job losses are the result of a drive for greater efficiency at Honda, which will move from a three-shift to a two-shift pattern at the plant.

Production currently runs along two lines, which will be consolidated to one in October this year, with the second line remaining idle in the hope the European market picks up in the future.

“This is a very challenging day at Honda in Swindon,” Mr Smith said yesterday. “Our thoughts are with the employees and families of those employees.

“This decision was reached to sustain a strong future for this plant. Honda remains committed to Swindon.”

Honda will now enter into consultation with union Unite on the prospective job losses.

Tony Murphy, Unite national officer for car manufacturing, said: “There is no getting away from it, these job losses are a devastating blow, not just for these workers but for the thousands more across the industry whose work is dependent on the Honda plant.

“Decent, skilled jobs are being lost today and investment is being withdrawn.

“We cannot allow workers of this expertise to be dispatched to the dole queue – the country needs their skills if we are to power our country back to economic health.

“Unite is determined to do all we can to save these jobs and skills.”

One worker, who has worked in the Swindon plant’s welding department for 17 years, expressed his disdain for the decision to cut jobs in production rather than management.

“There were redundancies last year and despite this, management were paid bonuses,” he said.

“They are not getting rid of any management – that’s beyond belief. It doesn’t make any sense.

“There was no surprise when we were told on Monday night. We were all expecting it. There were rumours going around all day.”