Plans to shut the plants were first announced in September and Suzanne Reid, northern regional organiser for the GMB trades union, said the move had come as a shock and workers were “absolutely devastated”.
Now KP Snacks has confirmed the proposal to shut Consett has been ratified following a 45-day consultation with workers and the GMB.
In a statement, the company said: “Collective consultation has now closed at Consett and we can confirm that the site will close in 2015. We are now commencing individual consultations with those impacted.”
Workers are being given the option to shift to the company’s nearby Stanley and Billingham sites in County Durham.
However, Reid has described the consultation process in relation to the Consett plant in particular, which was originally home to Phileas Fogg crisps, as “a farce”.
The GMB said its members felt let down by the snack firm’s “vague and generic” answers to its questions about the strategy and proposals to save the Consett site.
The company had continuously referred to the proposal as the most appropriate direction to take, saving overheads. It is understood that a downturn in production had been the main reason for the decision.
Reid told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “The company knew where they wanted to go. From the start to the end, I don’t think there was any hope of the factories staying open.
“The company hasn’t told us any exact closure date – just how and when it will look at transferring production.”
The GMB said that as a key employer in the town, the factory should not be allowed to close. It stressed that it had repeatedly raised concerns throughout the process about the consultation being a sham and meaningless.
“GMB members are deeply concerned about their future employment, they are very angry that the decision to close the factory seems to have been made some time ago with the consultation being nothing more than a farce,” said Reid.
“KP Consett, still known locally as Phileas Fogg, have a dedicated, loyal, hard-working workforce with a wide skill set. It will be a disgrace and a huge loss to the area if it closes.”
When KP Snacks first announced its intention to close the Consett and Corby factories, ceo Nick Bunker said: “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 …
“… These are only proposals at this stage and are subject to the appropriate consultation with our colleagues. No final decisions have yet been made.”
At the same time, he said KP Snacks’s integration into the UK operations of Intersnack, which bought the business in 2012, was progressing well. Intersnack was aiming to grow production of its Pom Bear crisps at its Teesside factory, said Bunker.