Vauxhall, owned by General Motors, said on Dec. 13 it would offer staff in Britain sabbaticals of up to nine months in a bid to cut costs amid the global economic downturn.
The initiative, whereby workers can take between two and nine months off at 30% pay, will be tested from next month until September with the manufacturer's 2,200 staff at its Ellesmere Port plant in western England.
"We're basically looking at cutting the structural cost of running the business," Denis Chick, the director of communications for GM UK, said, adding that the plan was "very much a pilot."
"One of the things we're trying to avoid is forced redundancies, because when we have an upturn, we need to have people there to make the cars. This is a way of avoiding that and saving the company some costs."
Chick said that the company did not expect take-up of the offer, which will be offered on Dec. 18, to be high, but said if it is well received, it may be rolled out across GM's brands in Europe.
The Ellesmere Port plant currently manufactures Vauxhall Astra cars, and Astravans, with production totalling 120,000 vehicles a year. Chick said he estimated production at the plant would drop by between 12% and 15% next year.
As a result of the downturn, workers at the Ellesmere Port plant and another large manufacturing site in Luton, near London, have been given up to a month off over the Christmas period.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008