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Intel asks workers to take unpaid leave

A slowdown in the once-blazing flash-memory business prompts the chip giant to ask some workers to take two weeks of unpaid time off this summer.

A slowdown in the once-blazing flash-memory business has prompted chip giant Intel to ask some workers to take two weeks of unpaid time off this summer.

Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said the offer is strictly voluntary and applies only to workers in select jobs at Intel's plant in Rio Rancho, N.M., near Albuquerque, which makes both traditional logic chips and flash memory, which is used in cell phones, digital cameras and MP3 players.

"The flash market is a little slower than we would like," Mulloy said. Workers were notified in early April of the option to take unpaid time off, he said.

Demand for flash memory soared in the past several years amid a seemingly insatiable consumer appetite for all sorts of digital gadgets. However, cell phone sales last year fell well short of the most optimistic projections.

The chipmaker announced in March that it would cut 5,000 jobs--about 6 percent of its worldwide work force--because of the slump in demand for computer processors and other chips. The company said it expects to achieve most of the job cuts through attrition.

Intel has imposed other cost-cutting measures, including delaying raises and encouraging recent college graduates who have received job offers to look elsewhere for work.

Intel resorted to temporary plant closures during a previous cash crunch in 1998.