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Walkers Snacks owners PepsiCo say they plan to close their factory in Peterlee putting 380 jobs at risk

PepsiCo said today it is proposing the closure of its Walkers Snacks factory in Peterlee, putting 380 jobs at risk.

The US food giant, which owns the Walkers brand, says the proposal was part of an efficiency drive that would see it move production to other sites across Britain.

Around 355 manufacturing site jobs and 25 transport worker positions are under threat as a result of the planned closure in County Durham.

Proposals: Tracey Foster, Peterlee manufacturing director at PepsiCo UK, said she understood the planned closure was ‘upsetting news for everyone’ at the site

Employees were notified of the proposal today. Michael Hunt, the regional organiser for the GMB union, said he planned to challenge the move which would see the factory closed by December 31.

He added: ‘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. For want of a better phrase, this isn’t the Northern Powerhouse, it’s the Northern Poorhouse.’

‘This is terrible news for our members – the employees – and their families, and for the town of Peterlee.’

Mr Hunt said he will meet with the company on March 15 – the same day that the company is set to launch a near six-week consultation that will run until the end of April.

Workers were informed of the proposal at a 10am meeting at Ramside Hall Hotel, Durham.

There was no shift on duty today and the car park at the plant was deserted, with normal production set to resume tomorrow.

Speaking outside the site, Mr Hunt said it had been proposed to shut the plant on December 31. Mr Hunt remarked: ‘It’s a massive Happy New Year from Walkers.’

PepsiCo said it is proposing to close its Walkers Snacks factory in Peterlee, County Durham

Tracey Foster, Peterlee manufacturing director at PepsiCo UK said: ‘In order to improve the efficiency of our UK snacks manufacturing operations, we are proposing the closure of our factory at Peterlee.

‘Crisps currently produced at the site would be manufactured at our other facilities in the UK.

‘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 onwards.’

Some 380 jobs are at risk over the potential closure of the Walkers Snacks factory in Peterlee

Walkers has factories around the UK in towns and cities including Leicester, Coventry, Lincoln and Skelmersdale in Lancashire.

The news comes just weeks after PepsiCo reported an 18 per cent drop in fourth quarter net income to $1.4billion (£1.1 billion) from $1.7billion (£1.4billion) during the same period in 2015.

Pepsico has charged ahead with its so-called productivity plan, which has seen the company invest in automation, and work at ‘further optimising’ its global operations in part by ‘closing certain manufacturing facilities’.

Chair and chief executive Indra Nooyi said the company is expecting ‘solid financial performance’ throughout 2017 ‘despite anticipated continued macroeconomic challenges’.

But Ms Nooyi told analysts during a conference call last month that Pepsico was experiencing steady business, regardless of political events such as Donald Trump’s election and the EU referendum last June.

‘I mean we are basic food and beverage. I don’t believe political actions impact consumption of our products. And we are not seeing any deterioration in activity versus our products and the market growth continues,’ she said.