The government should provide cash to top up the wages of those workers who have been asked to work shorter hours, unions and manufacturers have urged.
Following the announcement of 2,500 redundancies in the UK, steelmaker Corus said it needed government aid to subsidise short-time working and maintain employment levels in the short term.
Super-union Unite also said it had asked the government to look at how shorter working hours could be funded. "We are looking to contributing to the cost of making up people's wages when they work reduced hours," a spokeswoman told Personnel Today.
The deal requested was part of a broader call for a strategic aid package for the manufacturing sector. "We have asked for a strategic fund for manufacturing of £13bn, based on what the German government announced in October last year," she said.
"This will support companies on a commercial loan basis and allow assorted investment in machines, training and re-working lines to make them more environmentally sound."
Unite was also fighting redundancies in the manufacturing sector, she said.
"Our first point of reference is compulsory redundancies. Keeping people in work is essential. These are companies that are viable and we need them in place when the upturn comes."
A government statement on manufacturing aid by business secretary Peter Mandelson is expected later today.
Manufactures in the UK, including Honda and Nissan, have announced reduced working hours as they struggle with falling demand.