General Motors, the owner of Vauxhall, has put forward a plan for its Merseyside workforce to ‘take a break’ from two to nine-months from work on 30 per cent pay from January to September 2009.
The ‘sabbatical’ scheme was put to unions at its Ellesmere Port plant, Cheshire, on Thursday.
A Vauxhall spokesman said the number of staff who choose to take up the option will not be known until the New Year.
Vauxhall employs more than 5,000 workers in its plants at Ellesmere Port and Luton.
Vauxhall is already shutting down for a month this Christmas.
Unite joint general secretary Tony Woodley has called for government assistance.
He said: ‘While it is clearly very disappointing that talks to secure financial assistance for the Big Three car manufacturers in the US have stalled, failure to reach a deal there must not mean a moment’s delay in this country.
‘The UK car industry is facing unprecedented tough times with the collapse of the financial market spreading vulnerability right through the supply chain and placing 40,000 jobs in jeopardy.
‘This must mean unprecedented intervention from government, just as it did with the banks.’
All Trade Unions Alliance national secretary Dave Wiltshire said: ‘The only way to save jobs and auto manufacturing is to nationalise the car industry.
‘Any factories threatened with closure must be occupied, until they are nationalised.’