MORE than 230 jobs are set to be axed at a cheese packaging factory in Wrexham.
Employees at the First Milk factory in Cross Lanes were called in yesterday and told the factory is set to shut down in May 2014, putting all its employees out of work.
The proposal to close the Maelor Creamery follows the loss of a big contract with Supermarket giant Asda. A subsequent strategic review by company bosses concluded the site it is no longer economically viable.
Staff at the factory yesterday said the news was ‘devastating’.
A spokesman for First Milk said: “We very much regret the need to make the proposal to close our Maelor operation.
“We have a hard working, loyal and committed workforce there and we are aware of the impact that this news will have on them.
“We will of course seek to provide those potentially affected with every support and address ways in which the impact of the proposals can be reduced.”
Employees at the factory, which packs 30,000 tonnes of cheese a year, said they were ‘shocked’ by the news.
One employee, who has worked a the factory for nine years, said: “I am absolutely gutted. It is devastating for me and my family.
“It will be a big loss and as of May I have no money coming in.
“But it is also going to be hard to find another job in the current climate and I’m worried about the future.”
Another employee said: “This is a job that pays and keeps food on my table.
“You would think everyone needs milk and cheese and that they should not be closing this factory down, they should be expanding it as they said they were going to about 18 months ago.
“But they lost the contract with Asda and that appears to be that.
“I was called in for a meeting today and it just had a feeling of bad news. I would maybe have expected job losses but I think the closure of the factory was a massive shock for everyone.
“There are lots of people here with families and its going to be hard to get more work.”
In March 2012 First Milk had proposed a £17 million development of a UK centre of excellence for cheese packing and storage, but despite getting planning permission from Wrexham Council it never came to fruition.
Clwyd South AM Ken Skates said the closure is a blow for the area. He said: “I am disappointed to see Asda end their contract with the company after the excellent service they have been shown by the workers over the years.
“If the decision to close the site goes ahead I will do everything I can to try and help as many of the affected workers as possible find new employment and support them in any way I can.”
Secretary of State for Wales, David Jones MP, said the job losses are of great concern to the community and that the Welsh Government and the Jobcentre were on hand to help employees.
First Milk have briefed the trade unions at national and local level.
The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers’ national officer David Johnson said: “This is devastating news for the workers and their families, which comes at a very difficult time.
“I have a number of urgent meetings with management in the diary, where I will be examining what can be done to save jobs and keep people in work.”