Honda is to close its UK base for four months after Friday’s shifts are over.
The halt will affect just over 3,000 of the 4,000 employees, who will receive their full basic pay for the first two months, but around 60% thereafter.
The shutdown is thought to be one of the longest in Britain’s recent industrial history.
The move is in response to the downturn in the UK car market. On Friday the Japanese car company said global third quarter net profit had dropped 89%.
On Tuesday, Business Secretary Lord Mandelson outlined a package of government support for the UK car industry potentially worth up to £2.3bn.
BBC business reporter John Moylan said many motor manufacturers were cutting back production in the face of collapsing demand, but none had gone as far as Honda.
Honda has said there are no plans for redundancies and that it intends to “safeguard employment” for those workers who want to stay at the company.
But it is understood more than 1,000 staff have signed up for a voluntary severance package and some have already left the business.
It is likely that when staff return on 1 June, they will be making fewer vehicles as production, which was at around 240,000 vehicles a year, will resume at half that level.
Honda’s financial data for the three months to December showed that net profit had plummeted 89%.
The firm made a net profit of 20.24bn yen ($226m; £158m), far lower than the 200bn yen it made in the same period the year before, prompting the company to cut its annual forecast by more than 50%.
The group now expects net profit for the year to March 2009 to come in at 80bn yen, rather than the 185bn yen it had anticipated.
The carmaker said in November that the plant would be shut during February and March, and a two-month extension to the shutdown was announced earlier this month.
Honda employs 4,200 people in the UK and exports the Civic to 60 countries worldwide.
It has also cut 3,100 temporary jobs in Japan and reduced global production by 56,000 vehicles.
Bentley, Vauxhall and Jaguar Land Rover have all halted production or cut the working week in order to combat falling demand for their cars.
The Honda shutdown comes the day after the downturn saw another 2,300 jobs cut across the UK.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown, meanwhile, is due to address the annual meeting of politicians and business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The focus for his visit is expected to be on preparations for the G20 summit of leading economies in London in April.
Downing Street said he would also be making the case for greater trade and investment in Britain.
Source: BBC News
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