Page last updated at 12:44 GMT, Saturday, 13 December 2008

Vauxhall offers staff sabbaticals

Vauxhall Astra cars
The Ellesmere Port plant stopped production for 14 days in October

Car manufacturer Vauxhall has offered its workforce at one plant the chance to take a sabbatical on 30% pay.

General Motors approached unions at the plant in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, with the plan last Thursday.

Under the scheme, staff would stay away from work for up to nine months between January and September 2009 on less than a third of their basic salaries.

A spokesman said the company wanted to avoid making any compulsory redundancies.

He said it was "working with unions to cut structural costs and get us through 2009 without losing staff".

He added: "We want to avoid any forced redundancies."

Sabbatical offer

If successful, the sabbatical plan could be rolled out at Saab, Opel in Europe and other Vauxhall plants in the UK.

But the company said it did not expect there to be a "huge take-up" on the sabbatical offer.

Vauxhall employs more than 5,000 people in Luton and Ellesmere Port.

In October, the Ellesmere Port plant stopped production for 14 days because of falling sales in Europe.

Its workers have been given up to one month off over Christmas because of falling sales and the site is currently closed until 12 January.

Car sales in the UK have fallen overall by 37%, compared with the same time last year.

That is an increase from October, when the comparative fall was 27%.

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