AROUND 100 jobs at a clothing firm are at risk amid plans for a major retailer to cut it from its supply chain.
Staff at Dewhirst, in Peterlee, have been told that there is potential for redundancies at its factories in Stephenson Road and Whitehouse Way.
It comes as Marks & Spencer, a major client which has worked with Dewhirst for 128 years, plans to have goods shipped direct from Dewhirst’s overseas factories, including in Cambodia and Indonesia, rather than from the east Durham warehouses.
A concerned worker contacted Easington MP Grahame Morris, who has vowed to take the matter to Parliament.
Mr Morris said: “This is a terrible outcome for all those who face losing their jobs at Dewhirst in Peterlee.
“Marks & Spencer’s insistence on direct supply from foreign factories, regardless of any financial incentive to do so, is a counterproductive move for the UK economy, British business and jobs.
“I will be raising this issue with the Business Secretary as a matter of urgency to see if there is any possibility of achieving a better outcome.”
He said this was yet another blow to the employment crisis in east Durham, following last year’s announcement by Peterlee-based Reckitt Benckiser that 321 people would lose their jobs when the factory closes in 2014.
A Dewhirst spokesman said: “We have made an announcement to all our staff in the North-East that there is a potential that redundancies will result out of a review of the dispatch and warehousing facilities on these sites.
“We have also informed the union but have not got to a stage of formal consultation at this moment, though this is pretty imminent.
“The proposal as it stands is that stock we currently manufacture overseas is shipped directly into the Marks & Spencer supply chain rather than being stored in Peterlee.”
Dewhirst bosses will meet with representatives from the GMB union this week.
The spokesman added: “Staff are aware of this and have been pre-warned about this potential outcome from discussions that have taken place.”
GMB regional organiser Chris Preston said no decisions had been made on when, where, or how many jobs are affected.
A spokesman for Marks & Spencer said: “We are in early discussions with Dewhirst about its Peterlee warehouses and as such it would be inappropriate for us to comment any further at this stage.”
Marks & Spencer set out a plan in November 2010 to continue to reduce its dependency on suppliers managing transportation and storage of its products, providing Marks & Spencer with greater control over its supply chain.
As part of its plans, it will move to using four national Marks & Spencer distribution centres rather than a network of small logistic hubs.
Around 30 jobs at the Dewhirst factory in Hendon, Sunderland, are also at risk.