Agency workers at Toyota's Burnaston plant have been told that their jobs may be at risk as the factory looks to reduce production.
The Japanese car manufacturer has confirmed that it is considering reducing the number of agency workers at the plant, where it employs just over 2,600 people, including more than 200 agency staff.
The agency staff at Burnaston have been supplied by a company called Blue Arrow. Now, in a letter seen by the Derby Telegraph, Blue Arrow has written to those staff employed at Toyota to say that their jobs could be at risk.
In 2015, the Burnaston plant started making two new models - an updated version of the Auris and an all-new version of the Avensis. In order to meet the initial strong demand for the new cars, the factory took on more agency staff.
However, demand for the vehicles has now started to "stabilise" and Toyota has confirmed it is adjusting its rate of production. As a result, it does not need as many agency staff.
In a statement, the company said: "In May, 2015, we saw the start of production of two new models at Burnaston. Naturally, demand is high at the beginning of model life in order to fulfill orders for new and exciting vehicles. As demand begins to stabilise we inevitably see a lower order rate, and therefore must respond accordingly in terms of production line speed and therefore head count."
In November, the company also announced the Early Retirement Support Programme (ERSP), aimed at staff aged 55 and over. The scheme was created at the request of Unite the union and the Toyota workers whom it represents.
It was prompted after some of its members asked about the possibility of packages, as many of them had worked at the factory ever since it opened and were contemplating taking early retirement.
Toyota said: "The aim of ERSP is to help support staff over the age of 55 transition into a more comfortable retirement. Its introduction means that we will be able to minimise the number of agency workers affected.
"Until numbers are finalised for the ERSP, we are unable to confirm the number of affected Blue Arrow staff. Any Blue Arrow member whose position may be affected has been informed by the agency, who will of course continue to support members at this time."
Since the EU Referendum in June, there has been speculation about Toyota's future in the UK. The outcome of the vote raised concerns in the sector because post Brexit, car manufacturers who export their products to mainland Europe could face tariffs.
Currently, British car factories that export to Europe do not face tariffs - but there are fears that when Britain leaves the EU, the cost of exporting cars will increase by 10%, damaging their competitiveness. Toyota's Burnaston factory exports around 75% of its output to other European countries.
Last month, bosses of UK car manufacturers, including Toyota, met with government officials to discuss the way forward for the industry in the wake of Brexit. Tony Walker, deputy managing director of Toyota Manufacturing UK and managing director of Toyota Motor Europe, was among the attendees at the roundtable discussion, which was chaired by David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.
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