WORKERS have been dealt a shattering pre-Christmas blow with news that their factory is closing.

The Marbo electronics plant in Hartlepool, which once employed more than 300 people, has been hit by falling prices for its products, spiralling production costs and fierce competition from abroad.

Around 75 people will lose their jobs when the factory on the Oakesway Industrial Estate closes some time next year.

Some of the staff, who were told the news yesterday, were sent home while some remained on site to make sure customers got their products.

Marbo, which is a division of UK-wide company Electrium, manufactures cables and plugs for electrical goods.

It was set up in the town in 1972 under the name Marbourn Ltd, although the company had been trading in the UK since 1930.

Today, a statement from management revealed how talks are to be held next week with officials from the Amalgamated Electrical Union to discuss the implications of the closure.

The statement says: After much consideration and with great regret, the company is proposing to close the Marbo factory in Hartlepool.

The major factors contributing to this decision are the continuing decrease in the selling prices achievable for our products, together with increasingly fierce competition from far Eastern and mainline European manufacturers, rising raw material prices and production costs exasperated by unfavourable exchange rates.

Although there have been some improvements in manufacturing efficiencies at the factory, the aforementioned adverse conditions have resulted in ongoing trading losses and there are no signs of any future reversal in this provision.

Trade union representatives and all employees have been informed of our proposals and a period of full consultation will now commence to discuss the range of issues associated with the impact of this announcement.

Three years ago, the company slashed its 211-strong workforce because of difficult trading conditions caused by cheap Far Eastern imports.

Bosses then said they would concentrate on a new 2million automated production line to compete in the worldwide market.