Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has called for a further 300-400 voluntary redundancies across its UK manufacturing sites as it looks ahead to a “very tough” 2009.

This comes after a recent call for 198 redundancies which JLR corporate affairs spokesman Mark Foster said was part of an annual ‘shakeout’ that had been offered for several years.

“This time around it was very heavily oversubscribed,” he said. “It took us by surprise.”

He said the deals on offer had appeal for older workers close to retirement anyway.

“If you’re over 60 you get nine months’ salary plus full pension… so there’s an attraction there.

“We do have a workforce of around 16,000 so, within that, you’re going to find these numbers.”

He said the popularity of the earlier scheme combined with the ongoing impact of the global downturn – particular with major markets such as the UK going into recession – had prompted JLR to open up the voluntary reduction programme further “to attract a further 300-400 hourly-paid people in manufacturing”.

He said the latest offer was only announced on Monday after consultations with government and union officials so it was too early to comment on uptake.

As well as production staff, the offer was also open to hourly-paids in product development and a few salaried people in manufacturing at the Halewood, Castle Bromwich and Solihull plants plus smaller numbers at Browns Lane and product development at Gaydon.

“They [non-manufacturing] are small numbers and we expect the bulk to come from manufacturing,” Foster said.

He said JLR employs about 10,500 of its 16,000 workers in production.

JLR has already put a number of temporary shutdowns and output reductions in place and Foster said the current state of play was no production on Fridays at the Land Rover plant in Solihull, which builds Land Rovers and Range Rovers, with the exception of work on the utilitarian Defender line.

Night shift work on Range Rover, Sport and Discovery models has also been suspended.

At the Jaguar plant in Castle Bromwich, there are one or two days a week of non-production on the XK and XJ lines but not the new XF, introduced at the beginning of the year, which is still selling well world-wide.

He said JLR had also extended its week-long autumn break with an extra week at Solihull and there was no production last week at Halewood, which makes the Land Rover Freelander and Jaguar X-type.

Another ‘non-production’ week there is scheduled for later this month.

“XF is defying the trend at the moment but every manufacturer, and particularly the premium segment is feeling the impact,” Foster said, noting similar shutdowns at BMW and Mercedes plants in Germany.

“People are digging in for a bit of a long haul. We’re looking at next year again being a very tough year and most commentators are talking about an 18-month period of recession.

“So we look ahead and we look at what are the sensible volumes to build into the budget and we’ll have to react accordingly.”

He said JLR collectively sell its vehicles in 160 countries with 78% of UK production exported.

“We have got growth in markets like Russia, China, Brazil, Africa but even those have slowed a little but though they’re still growing.

“Globally, Jaguar is up about 10% and Land Rover down about 10% although that could be further down after October. If you focus only on the UK figures, it will look catastrophic.

“The entire globe has slowed.”

Graeme Roberts