Staff at a Shropshire creamery have been left ‘demoralised’ after bosses announced they are to close the site and move production to Liverpool.
But it will be about two years before Dairy Crest shuts the plant at Crudgington with the loss of 161 jobs.
It is hoped that about 50 members of staff will be transferred to the site in Kirkby, Merseyside.
Union bosses today said the writing had been on the wall since the creamery was scaled down last year when 90 people were made redundant, but the announcement was still upsetting for workers.
Paul Taylor, area organiser for the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, said: “Today’s decision, while still a shock for members, won’t really have come as a surprise to them.
“Both Crudgington and Kirkby have been operating under capacity and ever since a review started a couple of years ago, we’ve been aware the company might seek to consolidate spreads manufacturing on just one site.
“Despite this, I have been on site and the news has really demoralised everyone.
“Many employees and indeed members of their families have worked at the site for years.
“There is a real pride and loyalty in the workforce that the company will never be able to replace.”
Around 100 members of staff at the site are members of USDAW.
Farming bosses today voiced their concern for workers at the site and said it was upsetting news for the industry.
Rob Alderson, chairman of the Shropshire branch of the National Farmers’ Union, said the news was ‘disappointing’.
“I’m sorry for the jobs that will be lost in the county at the plant,” he said.
Mr Alderson said shutting Crudgington simply meant produce would have to be driven greater distances to Liverpool and Gloucestershire, increasing pollution and transport costs.
“It’s always better to have processing plants nearer to the point of production,” he said.
John Mercer, NFU regional director, said the move could have a significant impact on farmers in the county.
He said: “The proposed closure is a real blow for those whose jobs are at risk, county dairying and the Shropshire economy.
“Shropshire has a great reputation for milk production and while we’ve seen really difficult times in recent months the work being done by the NFU, those in the dairy coalition and farmers has been positive and helped give the sector a fighting chance.
“The dairy campaign continues as we push for a sustainable dairy sector that sees a fair return for our farmers, gives them a future in dairying and the confidence to invest in their businesses.”
Dairy Crest is the leading dairy products company in the UK and produces brands including Cathedral City Cheddar cheese, Utterly Butterly, Clover and St Ivel.
The dairy factory and creamery at Crudgington was originally formed as a co-operative in the 1920s before it was taken over in 1935 by the Milk Marketing board, part of Dairy Crest.
Owen Paterson, the MP for north Shropshire and the newly appointed Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: “Although it’s too early to get the full facts on this news, it’s always sad when job losses occur as a result of a company’s decision to move operations in order to compete more effectively in a demanding world market.
“The Government is determined to work with the dairy industry to increase consumption of dairy products made in the UK and to help give a major impetus to dairy exports.
“This Government has created over a million jobs in the private sector since the election, so I very much hope that those who will lose their jobs will only be out of work for a short time.”
Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard said he was concerned for the ‘dedicated’ workers in his constituency who would be losing their jobs.
“This is terrible news for all the staff based at Crudgington,” he said.
“I hope that those who are unable to relocate within the company can find new and local employment before the site closes.”
Barbara Hughes, 53, farms 250 acres at Ivy House Farm, Chidlow, Malpas, near Whitchurch, and is dairy chairman and vice president of the Women’s Farming Union.
She said: “If they can’t make a profit, what is going on? I can’t get my head around it because we have been squeezed so much. It is the job losses that worries me more than anything.”