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16 October 2017, 08:35
Vauxhall has announced plans to cut 400 jobs at the firm's Ellesmere Port factory by the end of the year.
Just under 1,800 people currently work at the site, which produces around 680 Astras every day.
It is understood the plans come as the demand for five-door family cars - such as the Astra - is falling, while the market for SUVs grows.
In a statement, Vauxhall said: "Facing challenging European market conditions and a declining passenger car market, Vauxhall needs to adjust production volumes at its Ellesmere Port production facility to the current level of demand and to improve its performance, in order to protect its future.
"Current manufacturing costs at Ellesmere Port are significantly higher than those of the benchmark plants of the PSA Group in France.
"The teams are conscious of the need to accelerate the recovery of plant productivity in order to meet the challenges ahead, while continuously improving the already high level of quality achieved today.
Staff at the plant are being told of the plans today. as part of the recovery the car maker says it has tabled a plan with Unite that encompasses a move towards single shift operation at Ellesmere Port during 2018 and a voluntary separation programme for eligible employees amounting to approximately 400 heads by the end of 2017.
The company says it is "committed to consult with employee representatives in order to look for potential opportunities to minimise the impact of these proposed headcount reductions. This consultation will take place over a 45-day period in line with legal requirements."
The four millionth Vauxhall Astra rolled off the production line at the Ellesmere Port factory in September.
In July, the European Commission waived through a £1.9 billion deal for French car giant PSA Group to buy Vauxhall owner Opel.
PSA, which owns Peugeot and Citroen, agreed to buy the loss-making European arm of General Motors (GM) in March.
The move aimed to secure GM's exit from the UK and Europe while transforming PSA into Europe's second-largest car maker.
However, the takeover sparked concern in the UK about the impact on thousands of jobs at Vauxhall plants and supply companies.
Reacting to Vauxhall's announcement Labour's Shadow Business and International Trade Minister and Sefton Central MP, Bill Esterson, said:
"The news that 400 jobs are being axed at Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port site will come as a hammer blow to workers and their families, especially as the festive season approaches. The decision is also likely to have a knock-on effect amongst those employed in supply chain roles. The car plant has been instrumental in stimulating economic growth to the area for over 50 years - helping to produce high skill, high value manufacturing jobs. Negotiations between Vauxhall, Trade Unions and staff will now take place, but I want to send my support to the hard-working employees and indeed communities across Cheshire and Merseyside affected."