11:55 17 February 2009
Mini has become the latest car manufacturer to give in to the economic downturn.
The brand's owning company, BMW, announced 850 redundancies at the Cowley production plant in Oxfordshire.
However, protests hit out after workers were told only one hour in advance and received no pay-off.
The company is blaming "volatile market conditions" for the need to change from a three-shift to a two-shift pattern. This means closing production altogether at weekends.
All the staff to go will be agency workers, while any BMW employees working on the weekend shift will be redeployed.
Other victims of the credit crunch include Jaguar Land Rover, Nissan and Ford who have all made big job cuts due dwindling demand for new motors
Despite the collapse in car sales in the second half of last year, 2008 was still a record year for Mini, with sales up 4.3% worldwide.
However by January sales of the classic small car were down by 35% in the UK and by 34% worldwide.
Mini is hoping that the introduction of a new convertible model in March, coinciding with the new licence plate registration, will ignite sales. However, experts believe that this move could hold the company back for a few years.
Professor Garel Rhys at Cardiff Business School's Centre for Automotive Industry Research, said: "This is Mini battening down the hatches for a long haul. It is yet another sign, this time from a very well-run operation, that customers are simply not going to be there for at least another two years."
Local councils and government agencies have set up a task force to help the axed workers.
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The carmaker also announced it had identified 150 surplus workers at its Mini plant in Swindon, who would be offered transfers to Oxford if they wish.
Meanwhile, work at the Cowley plant will not restart until February 23. It is expected that the changing shift patterns, as well as the resulting job losses, will come into force on March 2.
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