Further jobs threat to agency staff at Walkers crisp factory site

Walkers factory and distribution centre, Stephenson Road, Peterlee.
Walkers factory and distribution centre, Stephenson Road, Peterlee.

A further 150 jobs are at risk with the threat of a crisp factory’s closure, union bosses have said.

Representatives from the GMB met with Walkers chiefs in the hours after they told 355 production staff and 25 HGV drivers that their jobs will go if it presses ahead with a plan to close its plant in Peterlee on New Year’s Eve.

There are whole families that work there, mothers, fathers and their children and now they are looking with uncertainty at their future.

Michael Hunt

Now the union has said a further 150 agency staff positions, which help run the Stephenson Road plant, will also go if the PepsiCo-owned firm shuts down the site.

In the wake of its statement, the company, which also produces brands including Quaker Oats and Tropicana drinks, has also said it is looking for another business to come in and run its neighbouring distribution warehouse.

Michael Hunt, the union’s regional organiser with responsibility for the Walkers plant, claimed the company had said its location in the north as a reason why the East Durham site should shut, as most of its product supplies the south.

He has called that an “excuse,” citing companies such as Caterpillar and Nissan as success stories which also supply the south and are remaining in the region.

He added: “I’ve been speaking to members and when we were talking about 380 staff, there are also 150 agency staff on the site and they also contribute to the local economy.

“The plant couldn’t run without those agency workers.

“Walkers has issued staff with redundancy packages stating what they are going to get.

“But there was no communication from the company prior to 9.15am yesterday and that was only to say there was a meeting, nothing about redundancies, and I’m going to be speaking to them about that.”

Workers are still coming to terms with the proposal, which could shut the factory opened in 1960 and owned by Walkers since 1989.

Mr Hunt added: “Staff say they are completely shocked and disappointed.

“There are whole families that work there, mothers, fathers and their children and now they are looking with uncertainty at their future.

“I’ve heard from other companies which are provided by a service by Walkers and they say it’s going to impact on them.

“I would like to see their justification and their business plan in relation to the closure, because they have not convinced me.”

A petition launched to appeal to Walkers to rethink its plans has already been signed by 1,500 people.

It can be found here.