Toyota to return to full-time working in UK factories

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Toyota, the embattled Japanese car-maker that has been embroiled in a row over the safety of its vehicles in recent weeks, yesterday said that employees at its factories in north Wales and Derbyshire were set to return to full-time working.

Staff have been working 10 per cent fewer hours, and earning 10 per cent less pay, for the past 12 months. They will return to work on 1 April, although this will also coincide with a two- week production hiatus. Employees will be paid for the second week of the stoppage.

Toyota employs about 4,000 workers at its plants in Deeside in north Wales and Burnaston, near Derby. The company confirmed yesterday that it would also ask for as many as 750 voluntary redundancies in August when one production line at the Burnaston factory is closed.

The group said its redundancy programme, which it refers to as a "voluntary release programme," would be entirely optional. The group has also agreed a pay freeze for 2010, which will apply to all UK staff.

"The next year is key for Toyota Manufacturing UK," said Tony Walker, the company's deputy managing director. "Employees returning to full-time working and offering a voluntary release programme will allow us to adapt to the reduced market."

Mr Walker blamed the huge drop in UK car sales at the start of last year for the production cuts. The company yesterday refused to give any production forecast for the rest of the year.

Toyota has been hit by a massive vehicle recall in recent months over safety concerns. As many as 1.8 million cars were recalled by the group in Europe after it admitted to problems with accelerators. In the US, the Department of Transportation has also opened an inquiry into the safety of the braking systems on a number of models, following reports of several crashes.

Mr Walker yesterday declined to comment on the company's safety record, insisting instead he was confident about the UK's manufacturing arm.