MORE than 700 jobs could be at risk in Melksham at the town’s biggest employer.

It is understood that bosses at the Bath Road headquarters of Cooper Tire & Rubber Co Europe Ltd are to make a major announcement.

They are closing the factory for 24 hours on Wednesday and all employees working its three-shift system have been asked to attend a mass meeting in the company’s car park.

It is understood the firm’s general manager, Jaap Van Wessum, is to speak to the whole workforce.

An employee, who did not wish to be identified, said the 700-plus workforce fear the Melksham site will be closed and production moved to Serbia in Eastern Europe where the company has invested heavily.

This could have a devastating impact on the local economy of Melksham and wider West Wiltshire, including local shops, house prices, and small businesses.

In a letter hand-delivered to the Melksham workers, the company said: “This is to inform you that Jaap Van Wessum, General Manager of Cooper Tire & Rubber Co Europe Ltd, is delivering a communication to all employees on 10 October 2018 at 3pm.

“The location for this meeting will be the Racing Lorry car park.

“To allow employees the opportunity to attend this meeting, the factory will be closed at 6am on Wednesday, 10 October and will resume production on Thursday, 11 October.

“All employees will be paid as normal during this 24-hour factory closure as this is an important meeting and, given that employees will be paid as normal, it is expected that all employees will attend this meeting. If you are unable to attend, please inform your immediate supervisor in advance.

“Given the number of employees attending this meeting, those employees who are able to walk, cycle or travel to the facility by public transport are encouraged to do so.”

The un-named source said Cooper Tire & Rubber Europe has failed to invest in the Melksham site over the past five years.

Instead, the American-owned company has invested heavily in its plant in Krusevac, Serbia, which is that town’s second-biggest employer and provides tyres for the European and Russian markets.

The company, which also includes the former Avon Rubber plant in Bath Road, is the world’s seventh largest tyre manufacturer.

Back in August, Cooper Tire & Rubber Company reported second quarter 2018 net income of $15 million (£11.42 million), or diluted earnings per share of $0.30 (£0.23 per share), compared with $45 million (£34.25 million), or $0.85 per share (£0.65 per share), for the same period last year.