Car makers change work practices to save jobs

Nissan aims to minimise job losses by implementing flexible working schemes to cut staff hours as the recession grips car manufacturers.

Earlier this month it announced 1,200 jobs would have to go as a result of falling sales worldwide , and the firm is now asking employees to work shorter weeks and reduce the production line to save on costs, to avoid more job cuts.

Staff will be paid the same wages, but they will need to make up the unworked hours when production picks up.

Steve Pallas, training and development manager at Nissan’s Sunderland plant, told Personnel Today that several days each week were also being devoted tocompleting government-funded training programmes that had been accelerated ahead of their multi-year schedules, to prepare employees for the upturn. “Rather than sending staff home, we wanted to use this opportunity to improve skills that would have a direct impact on the shop floor,” he said.

Of the 1,200 jobs that will go, 800 are permanent posts. Pallas said: “We have begun a 90-day consultation [with unions] and are looking at how we can support the 800 to find alternate jobs.”

Nissan is not the only car manufacturer in trouble. In October 2008 Jaguar Land Rover offered staff three-month sabbaticals on 80% pay, which 300 employees accepted. But in November it announced that 850 agency workers were being made redundant, and last week it revealed it was cutting 450 more jobs.

A spokesman told Personnel Today that Jaguar Land Rover was still offering the sabbaticals, and even extending some, to preserve jobs.

Other car makers have tried similar moves to save jobs. Honda announced it would halt production for two months from February, and Vauxhall has begun offering nine-month sabbaticals on 30% pay.

Manufacturing bodies said they support employers doing “whatever it takes” to preserve jobs, but admit that nothing is fool-proof against the economic downturn.

“Employers are using line closures and reduced pay to retain staff, essentially anything that avoids losing vital skills,” a spokeswoman from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said.

“Employers don’t take redundancies lightly, and they will do everything they can to avoid them.”

Brown backs Nissan

Prime minister Gordon Brown hailed Nissan’s move to combine short- time work with government-financed training to ride out less busy periods. He said putting aside several days for training like business NVQs would help staff stay in employment, or find new jobs quickly.

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