Staff at General Motors Europe's Vauxhall car plant halted production of Astra models when they staged an unofficial walkout, the BBC reported.

Hundreds of staff at Ellesmere Port, in Cheshire, protested on Friday over the ending of 46 temporary contracts, the report said.

Vauxhall told the BBC it was "extremely disappointed" at the demonstration, saying the employees' contracts were always due to run out on Friday. It said its parent firm General Motors could not afford to lose any production of the new car.

"It is extremely important that everyone at Ellesmere Port works together to ensure we can meet demand for the new Astra," a Vauxhall spokesman told the BBC.

Members of the Transport and General Workers' Union at the plant will vote next week for industrial action, the report said.

Since the temporary workers involved had been at the factory for two and a half years the union told the BBC it viewed these as compulsory redundancies.

Claims of unfair dismissal will be taken to an employment tribunal, the report added.

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