DOZENS of workers at a Durham soft drinks plant face Christmas on the dole.
Almost 100 jobs are facing the axe with the closure of the Refresco factory on the city’s Belmont Industrial Estate.
Refresco has been bottling fruit juice on the site for more than 40 years.
The closure decision comes after the company merged with Somerset-based Gerber Emig.
The plant’s work will be transferred to a similar operation in the West Country, with the loss of 93 jobs. Around half of the workforce have been told they will lose their jobs within weeks, with the rest going in the first half of the new year.
The firm is in talks with representatives from the Unite union about the possibility of some staff transferring to the West Country.
Managing director Gerry Smith said: “Following the merger, there are now two plants doing much the same thing, but which are also both underutilised in a market which is declining.
“Regrettably, the decision has been made to close Durham and move work to our sister plant in Bridgwater.
“Obviously, this has come at the worst time of year, but we are making every effort to offer staff opportunities in Somerset should they want to move.
“We expect the plant to cease production by the second quarter of next year.”