PSA has announced it will shift its plant in Ellesmere Port to a four-day workweek starting on March 23.
Workers are now fearing further job cuts as uncertainty regarding the UK’s future trade agreements with the EU and slowing sales look set to take a toll on production.
Vauxhall said in a statement the plant would operate “extended hours” on those four days, which could mean workers will rack up a similar amount of hours to their current five-day week. However, the automaker did not rule out layoffs. “We will now study the result of this decision and discuss with workforce representatives and trade unions whether there are any impacts,” Vauxhall said in a statement.
In a letter to employees seen by the Liverpool Echo newspaper, the plant’s director, Mark Noble, said the move to a four-day workweek was in response to slumping sales of the Astra Sports Tourer built at the plant. However, things are more complicated than that, as PSA CEO Carlos Tavares previously said the future of Ellesmere Port depends on the UK negotiating a tariff-free trade agreement with the European Union.
Workers fear that cutting one day of the workweek could result in 170 layoffs at the plant, which has already lost almost half of its staff since PSA bought Opel and Vauxhall from General Motors in 2017. “The general feeling is we are being run down to a certain death,” one worker who wished to remain anonymous told Autonews Europe.
Employees also fear that Ellesmere Port will lose promised production of the new Astra from 2021. Manufacturing of the next-generation Astra has been confirmed for the Rüsselsheim plant in Germany so far. Nevertheless, the plant director stressed that the move to a four-day workweek “will not influence negatively whether Ellesmere Port is allocated the new Astra.” The Ellesmere Port factory is expected to keep manufacturing the current Astra Sports Tourer until 2022.