ALMOST 200 production associates have applied to leave Honda voluntarily – but negotiations with Unite must continue as the threat of compulsory redundancies looms large.

The deadline for employees to apply for the Associate Release Programme at Honda of the UK Manufacturing closed at 5pm on Tuesday. The firm says it needs to axe staff because of falling sales in Europe.

Of the 340 permanent positions HUM needs to cut, 191 associates accepted the severance package offered and formally applied to have their contracts terminated.

HUM and Unite both hope compulsory redundancies will not be needed to make up the shortfall of 149 people required to leave the business.

“From a Unite perspective, we are arguing all non-HUM personnel should be removed from the factory and replaced with Honda employees,” said Jim D’Avila, Unite’s regional co-ordinating officer in Swindon.

“We are following the Acas and TUC guidelines. There are agency staff from SDC (South Marston Distribution Centre) working at HUM – their roles should be filled with surplus HUM workers.”

Mr D’Avila said the union is led to believe there are 95 staff currently working on the production lines at HUM, who are temporary workers borrowed from SDC, which is based in Thornhill Road.

He said negotiations between HUM and Unite will focus upon the agency contingent at HUM, whose jobs might soften the blow of any compulsory redundancies.

“The work being done by those agency staff borrowed from SDC has all been done by Honda workers before, so they are more than capable of plugging those gaps,” said Mr D’Avila.

“Nobody wants to face compulsory redundancy.

“Honda has said it wants to do everything it can to minimise workers being made redundant and they should see Acas advises all agency workers are removed before contracted staff.”

There is also hope on both sides that all of those who have applied to leave HUM voluntarily will be allowed to go so compulsory redundancies are minimised.

A HUM spokesman said: “HUM is continuing consultation discussion with the Unite Consultation Council to look at further mitigation of roles and the processes required for compulsory redun- dancies.

“It’s disappointing we haven’t attracted everyone needed to leave voluntarily. But we are pleased to have got more than half of those needed to apply. I can’t say whether we are definitely going to need compulsory redundancies or not. It’s a possibility, but it’s not a foregone conclusion.

“We are hoping everyone who applied to leave will be accepted. We are still looking through how those who applied have met our criteria.”

May 23 remains the date set by HUM for the full 500 staff to be released from the business.