Nissan is to cut about 1,200 jobs in response to falling customer demand for new cars during the recession.
The car manufacturer said it was taking the action “to protect the long-term viability of its manufacturing operations” in Sunderland. The plant, which opened in 1986, employs about 4,900 workers.
The firm is also cutting shifts on its production lines in the first quarter of 2009.
The headcount reduction includes 400 temporary workers, who are expected to leave by the end of the month. Nissan said it hoped it could avoid compulsory redundancies.
Discussions with company works councils and the Unite trade union will now take place.
Trevor Mann, senior vice-president for manufacturing, Europe, said: “It is essential we take the right action now to ensure we are in a strong and viable position once business conditions return to normal. Unavoidably, this means we have had to make some very tough decisions in recent weeks.
“The long-term future of the plant must remain our over-riding priority. However, as always, Nissan will continue to make every effort to minimise the impact on its employees and their families.”
Nissan is one of a number of car and other manufacturing firms that have taken drastic steps to cut costs because of the economic downturn.