The petition – which started last week (March 1) – aimed to make PepsiCo, owner of Walkers, rethink its proposal to close the factory which would put 380 jobs at risk. The closure would see a number of families left without an income, the petition read.
Signatories said the closure would be devastating to the local economy and would drive unemployment.
One man, Michael H, wrote on the petition: “I’ve worked at Walkers for 14 years, and the factory and the people have become a part of the family. It’s going to be very difficult to start all over again looking for employment, as it’s going to be the same for a lot of people who have worked here most of their lives.”
‘The town needs this employer’
Another signatory, Omar R, said: “The area needs employment more than any other area I have ever been to. It is surrounded by failing ex-mining villages with massive unemployment. The town needs this employer.”
Walkers Peterlee job losses – at a glance
- 380 jobs at risk
- Production to be moved elsewhere
- Petition launched to keep factory open
The petition, launched on the website 38 Degrees, topped 1,000 signatories within 24 hours. Durham County Council said it understood why the petition had gained so much traction.
Durham County Council cabinet member for economic regeneration, culture and tourism Neil Foster said: “We were extremely disappointed to hear that PepsiCo is proposing to close its site at Peterlee and fully appreciate the concerns of local people.
‘In discussions with management’
“We are in discussions with management at the factory and other agencies on the future of the site and have informed them of the support we can offer with partners should the decision be taken to close.”
PepsiCo UK revealed plans to close the crisp factory on March 1 – the same day the petition was launched. The manufacturer claimed moving the operations would boost efficiency.
There are currently 355 staff working in production at the site, and a further 25 working in supply chain. All 380 face job losses at the end of the year, the GMB union claimed.
- “As the North East is one of the most unemployed areas in the country, an additional loss of around 400 jobs, on top of the jobs lost last year from steel works closures, would be a massive loss to the area and would also see a number of families left without an income.”