ALMOST 200 jobs are under threat at Dewhirst clothing depots in Sunderland and Peterlee.
The Echo revealed earlier this week that about 130 posts were facing the axe – but now a union official has confirmed the figure could be as high as 195.
But GMB spokesman Chris Preston said that figure was a “worst case scenario” and there was no guarantee the cuts would happen.
The proposed job losses are a result of a proposal by Dewhirst’s main client, Marks and Spencer, to change the way it deals with clothes imported from Dewhirst’s foreign factories.
At the moment, imported goods are processed at the firm’s centres in Stephenson Road and Whitehouse Way in Peterlee and Commercial Road in Hendon.
“The product comes in from Indonesia, or wherever the factory is that it is manufactured, in a container and they make it presentable, given it has just spent five weeks on a ship” said Mr Preston.
But M&S wants to have clothes imported directly, doing away with the need to have them processed in the North East depots.
Mr Preston said the plan was only a proposal at present and there was no guarantee it would be put into action, nor how much of the firm’s imports would be affected.
“At the moment, Marks and Spencer have proposed this, so Dewhirst have to tell us about it,” said Mr Preston. “The company has to tell us about the worst case scenario for legal reasons.
“This is the earliest of the earliest stage.”
It could be another six weeks before any concrete decision is taken.
If the worst came to the worst, Dewhirst could be left with just 40 staff in “clerical and technical roles” across the three sites, though it would be several months yet before anyone was made redundant, with no plans to introduce the proposed changes before October.
“Hopefully, there will be lots of twists and turns in the coming months, to decide whether it will work,” said Mr Preston.