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French Protests Hurt Toyota Production

Toyota's French operations have seen production drop by 3,300 cars after workers angry over cutbacks blocked access to a factory where the Yaris model is built.

PARIS (AP) -- Toyota Motor Corp.'s French management reached a deal with workers Monday to end four days of labor protests which included a factory blockade that has caused production to drop by 3,300 cars.

Workers angry over cutbacks had since Thursday lined up their cars to block all four entrances to the factory in Onnaing in northern France. Some set tires and crates ablaze in the latest wave of protests by French workers at companies hit by the economic slowdown.

The protesters began removing the cars after talks Monday morning between two labor unions and company management produced an agreement over higher compensation for so-called short-time contracts, according to Francois Regis Cuminal, chief spokesman for the factory.

Under short-time contracts, employees work fewer hours and the company saves money and avoids full layoffs. The practice has become widespread at French factories in recent months. Workers are usually paid for the hours they don't work, but at a reduced rate.

Production was resuming later Monday, Cuminal said.

Because of the protests, "about 3,300 cars were not made," Cuminal said. The plant employs 3,250 workers and normally produces about 26,000 cars a month.

Even before the current protests, the company had slowed output due to sinking car sales amid a global crisis in the car industry.

Worker strikes and protests began partially disrupting production two weeks ago, then workers blocked all access to the site Thursday night.

"We have 95 percent of personnel at work today, without producing anything because we have no more parts," Cuminal had said earlier Monday.

Cuminal said Toyota would tap a government aid fund to boost the rate of short-time pay from 60 percent of gross salary to 75 percent.

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