HUNDREDS of Scots jobs are at risk after French tyre manufacturer Michelin confirmed plans to close its Dundee plant by mid-2020.
Workers and union leaders say they are “devastated” by the surprise development at Michelin Dundee, which currently 850 people.
A staff meeting is scheduled for Tuesday morning.
It comes a matter of weeks after the French manufacturing giant warned about the threat of cheap imports could affect jobs.
And it comes comes a year after Scottish Enterprise allocated £4.5m of public money to the plant for new production machinery in addition to a £12m investment by the Michelin Group to support increased demand for larger tyres.
The firm said: “Despite the group’s continuous efforts, and the factory employees’ dedication to making the site economically sustainable through the implementation of several action plans – €70m (£61m) has been invested in recent years to modernise the site – the accelerated market transformation has made the plant unsuitable and its conversion is not financially viable.
“Against this backdrop, the Michelin group has had to announce its intention to employees to close the Dundee factory by mid 2020.
“The priority now is to provide the 845 employees of the factory with the most effective support possible to enable them to face the consequences of this difficult decision.”
The move has shocked local Unite union leaders who were unaware of the moves and thought they were making progress in talks over the plant.
One union rep said: “We were meant to have a meeting with shop stewards to discuss the future of the plant.
“We would be devastated if this is right, particularly because of the fantastic relationship we have always had with management locally.”
Michelin last month warned that jobs could be lost at its Dundee plant in the face of “extremely challenging trading conditions”.
Michelin’s plant on Baldovie Road, specialises in smaller dimension tyres.
The firm had forecast that output will fall from 6.2 million tyres in 2017 to a maximum of 5.4 million per year over the next three years and blamed an influx of cheap tyres from Asia and falling demand for smaller premium tyres.
Unite Scottish secretary, Pat Rafferty, said: “Unite has been aware of the challenging market situation facing the Michelin Group.
“If the media reports are confirmed by Michelin, this will be hammer-blow for Dundee. It would be devastating and a betrayal of the workforce who have made major changes to working practices at the site in order to secure its long-term future.
“The workforce can be assured Unite will fight tooth and nail to save our factory, we will leave no stone unturned to keep this factory open. Unite will work day and night to ensure that all options remain on the table.”
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said the news would be “devastating” to the workforce and their families adding: “My thoughts are with them.”
“The Michelin factory in Dundee has provided not just hundreds of well paid jobs, but much needed skills and training to a city which has suffered greatly as a result of deindustrialisation,” he said.
“It is now key that the Scottish Government does everything it possibly can to keep the factory open and protect jobs. This should include working closely with Michelin, trade unions and the Dundee community to provide urgent clarity on the current situation.
“Scottish Labour stands ready to provide constructive support to help Michelin workers and keep the factory open.”
Last month in statement, the company then said: “We are working with employees, unions and the Michelin Group to meet these market challenges.
“We will explore all options to maximise the efficiency of the plant, and those options could include restructuring working patterns and reducing headcount.
“Michelin Dundee continues to appreciate the hard work and flexibility of its employees, and we will update them before the end of the year.”
The union Unite said it had been working closely with European trade union partners and Michelin on the issue of cheap imports into Europe from Asia.
In late 2015, Michelin announced it was investing more than £50m at its factory in Dundee.
The company said then that new machinery to make larger tyres would see production increase by nearly a third.