General Motors UK unit Vauxhall is reported to be in talks with unions over further cost-cutting measures.

The company has already offered 2,200 workers at its Ellesmere Port Astra plant a two- to nine-month furlough scheme which would give them 30% of pay and preserve pension and holiday benefits.

A spokesman told The Times at the weekend: "There's a whole range of things on the table, from changing shift patterns, to pay cuts to getting rid of bonus payments; 2009 is really going to be extremely challenging."

He added: "The key thing that we are trying to avoid is enforced redundancies. We have spent a fortune training our workforce and we are going to need them when things pick up in the future."

The manufacturer has estimated that, for every one of its 5,000 workers in the UK another 10 employed by suppliers, dealerships and other companies rely on the car manufacturer which, along with the rest of the UK industry, has requested credit guarantees from the government to help to boost car financing.

Parent General Motors received an emergency loan on Friday from the US government and Canada followed suit for the GM unit there on Saturday.

German GM unit Opel - which designs the vehicles Vauxhall builds - has been told the German government now won't decide before Christmas on loan guarantees of up to EUR1bn to Opel which chancellor Angela Merkel had indicated that the government would provide. Opel had said it did not need a decision until the end of the year.

UK automakers have said they will be put at a competitive disadvantage if they do not receive some government assistance.

Vauxhall's industrial matters spokeswoman could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, local member of parliament Andrew Miller has pledged his full support for the Ellesmere Port plant, citing it as a perfect example of why the government and public should be buying British.

Miller said that as well as providing vital employment in his constituency, the government should also realise that the plant had a "very real future", which would include building the new generation Astra next year. Currently, all five-door Astras are built at Ellesmere Port, around 60% of which are exported.

"We should support products that are made at home," said Miller, "For example, many police forces use Vauxhall Astras made in Ellesmere Port. We could sell considerably more to other such people, including to ministers for the government fleet."

Miller also stressed the importance of future investment in environmentally friendly vehicles in the UK, saying the government would be making a "huge mistake" if it didn't engage with UK industry to make vehicles using alternative energies a reality.

Ellesmere Port is already home to the new Astra ecoFLEX model, which emits just 119g/km and achieves 72.4mpg on the government's extra urban cycle. Parent company GM is also on the brink of launching the Chevrolet Volt - a ground-breaking plug-in electric vehicle, which will come to the UK in the near future - so Miller's comments were welcomed by plant officials.