Workers at JCB are to be balloted on whether to accept a shorter working week in a bid to safeguard their jobs.
The firm, based in Rocester, in Staffordshire, has 11 factories across the UK.
The GMB union said because of the current financial climate, a reduction in work hours was required otherwise 500 jobs could be lost.
A spokesman for JCB said it needed to reduce output across the UK by 19%. The ballot is due to be held next week.
'Difficult to finance'
In a statement from the company, a spokesman said orders had fallen and as a result JCB must "align its production with current demand".
"JCB's dealers and customers around the world are reducing the number of machines they are ordering, predominantly because of low business confidence," they said.
"In addition, dealers and customers are also finding it more difficult to finance machine purchases and tighter mortgage availability is hitting housing industry customers.
"As a result, JCB has to align its production with current demand which means reducing output across UK operations by 19% for the remainder of the year and into 2009."