PepsiCo, the US owner of brands including Pepsi and Tropicana, has said it is proposing to close its Walkers Snacks factory in Peterlee, County Durham, putting 380 jobs at risk.
Under the plan, production at the plant would be moved to other UK sites, PepsiCo said, as it looks to find "crucial savings" and bolster the business' long-term prospects. Production was halted yesterday and again today.
The factory makes a range of popular Walkers' brands, including Wotsits, Cheetos and Walkers Sensations.
Manufacturing managing director at the Peterlee site, Tracey Foster, said union consultations had begun.
In a statement she said:
Peterlee has been an important site for our business but the changes we are proposing present significant productivity and efficiency savings crucial for ensuring the long-term sustainable growth of our business in the UK.
We appreciate this is upsetting news for everyone at the Peterlee site. It is a difficult proposal for us to put forward and we want to make clear that it in no way reflects the performance of our colleagues at Peterlee, who we are grateful to for their hard work and commitment.
No decisions will be made without first consulting employees and their representatives. We would also like to reassure colleagues that we will be providing on-going support and assistance from this point onward.
GMB regional organiser Michael Hunt said: "It wasn't long ago that the government said they wanted to reinvigorate the region and inject business into the North East but the opposite appears to be true."
The union rep added: "This is terrible news for our members – the employees – and their families, and for the town of Peterlee."