Luxury boat builders have become the latest industry to succumb to the effects of the financial crisis, with even well-off customers starting to feel the pinch.
Fairline Boats, which makes yachts and motor cruisers costing up to £2m ($3m, €2.4m) is moving some production lines on to a two- and three-day week in the run-up to Christmas, it said on Monday.
The move comes a month after Sealine, a subsidiary of Brunswick, the US boat builder, announced that it was almost halving its 650-strong UK workforce.
Derek Carter, managing director of Northamptonshire based Fairline, said orders had fallen sharply. The company, which sells about 85 per cent overseas, expects production to be about 25 per cent lower next year.
“This would take us back to about 2006 levels – which was still a relatively good year,” said Mr Carter. Short-time working at the company’s plants in Oundle and Corby would affect 365 workers – “less than 30 per cent of the company’s 1,360 employees” – and would last until Christmas Eve, he said.
Mr Carter said: “We acknowledge the ill-timing of such action for affected members of our workforce and are saddened that economic circumstances outside our control have forced this regrettable decision.”
The company said workers would receive 60 per cent of their pay on the days production was halted.
It had decided to work fewer hours rather than make redundancies to preserve long-term employment. “My team has worked diligently with the unions to preserve skill and labour in this prestigious, labour-intensive and highly skilled area of manufacture,” Mr Carter said.
A growing number of manufacturers, particularly in the car industry, have moved to short-time working rather than axe jobs. Corus, the steel group, announced last week that it was closing blast furnaces in Scunthorpe and Port Talbot until March.
More than 2,500 workers at JCB, the construction equipment manufacturer, opted last month to accept a pay cut and work a four-day week to save jobs.
Mr Carter said: “Short-time working for a duration of time is an action often taken by manufacturers to match production levels with retail demand and is recognised as a way to secure long-term employment and business stability in a volatile market.”’
Howard Pridding, executive director at the British Marine Federation, warned: “The uncertainty is set to continue, and it is clear that further difficult decisions will have to be made. We anticipate that British companies will continue to experience a difficult market for some months to come.”
He said the industry’s international reputation “for good design, innovation and quality” would “enable the sector to tackle current challenges and emerge on a sure footing”.
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