Last week’s announcement that Honda would halt production at its English plant in Swindon for another two months in April and May has been met “with dismay” by Unite, the key automaking union in the country.

Derek Simpson, joint general secretary, said: “This latest, additional shutdown underlines the urgent need for state assistance for our car industry. With demand for Honda’s products collapsed and a plunge in this year’s production figures, one of our leading plants must stand idle for four months.

“Now, the Honda workforce is facing a 50% cut in wages, and are frightened for their jobs and futures. They, along with the rest of the car and components industry, desperately need to see some form of lifeline being thrown to the sector from the government. We also need immediate financial support for workers, such as those at Honda, who must take a cut in pay in order to keep their jobs.”

Repeating Unite’s call for a GBP13bn strategic assistance fund for the manufacturing and car industry, joint general secretary Tony Woodley said:    “Our car industry is taking a battering and it urgently needs state assistance. This is a no brainer – we must get credit lines running and above all, hear from government that its priority is to keep people in work.

“Ministers must stop dilly-dallying. Aid for our car industry is now a matter of urgency, including money to support workers who must take a dramatic cut in wages to hang onto their jobs. While the US, Germany and our other competitors are teeing up their second assistance schemes to protect their manufacturing sector, our country has yet to implement its first. If we do not have action now, our industry will not be fit for purpose when the economic upturn comes.”

Honda local Unite officer, Jim D’Avila said: “Our members are stunned, and worried about what next. They know that the severe drop in demand means pain for the workforce but we are working with the management team at Honda to ensure that people are kept in work. Our priority now is to save jobs and help the workforce through these very tough times.”