The company is proposing to close both plants, putting all 103 workers’ jobs at the Consett site and the 83 jobs at Corby at risk, in the first quarter of next year.
Referring to the reaction of GMB members at the Consett plant, regional organiser Suzanne Reid told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “They are absolutely devastated. This has come as a shock.
“These are not just people who come in and out of employment. These are longstanding employees. It’s not uncommon to have people there who have worked there for 25 years.”
FoodManufacture.co.uk understands that KP Snacks has claimed that the reason for the Consett closure is a downturn in production.
The proposals were unexpected for employees at the Consett factory, Reid said. “Two months ago, there were 10 voluntary redundancies and we thought that had solved the issue.”
She stressed that the plans would be the subject of a 45-day consultation, which began yesterday (September 4) and that “nothing was set in stone”.
The company has two nearby factories at Stanley and Billingham, in County Durham, and workers could be offered the chance to transfer to one of those.
However, Reid said many staff lived very close to the factories slated for closure and travelling or moving closer to the other sites might not be possible for all of them.
The Consett plant was the original home to Phileas Fogg crisps.
In a statement, KP Snacks ceo Nick Bunker said its plans followed its integration with parent company Intersnack, which owns the Pom-Bear crisp brand and bought KP in December 2012.
“… Regrettably, to develop a sustainable and competitive manufacturing operation, we are proposing to close the sites and to transfer production to other sites in our network,” said Bunker.
“We operate in an increasingly competitive market and need to focus on our cost base in order to develop a sustainable business. Unfortunately, despite plans to grow our Pom-Bear business, our Corby factory is capacity constrained and has been for some time.
“Now KP Snacks and Intersnack UK have integrated to form a larger UK business, we have the opportunity to expand our Pom-Bear business in the most cost-efficient manner at our larger Teesside site.
“In addition, after many years of working hard to try and grow our Consett volume, and despite the growth of Phileas Fogg, the under-utilisation of the site has created an unsustainable situation.”
Bunker said KP had invested £30M across its sites over the past 18 months and was committed to keeping a manufacturing base and maintaining as many jobs as it could in the UK.
“We very much appreciate the hard work, commitment and focus on quality of our Corby and Consett colleagues during this difficult time and we will work closely with them as we consult on this proposal in the coming weeks,” he said.
“These are only proposals at this stage and are subject to the appropriate consultation with our colleagues. No final decisions have yet been made.”