UNION leaders described the Cooper Tire Europe announcement as a “devastating” body blow to the company’s workforce and the local economy.

Tony Hulbert, the Unite union’s regional officer in Swindon, said they would be talking to Cooper Tire over the next eight weeks to minimise the impact of 300 job losses.

He pledged: “”We will do all we can to minimise these job losses.

“We’re going to have to make sure we keep them honest and use every resource within Unite during the consultation process.

“We will be contacting our national office and lobby against the changes which have made the UK tyre industry uncompetitive.”

Mr Hulbert has a long association with the company, having worked for Avon Tyres when he was younger.

His grandfather, Sidney Bridewell, also worked for the company for more than 40 years until he retired.

Mr Hulbert said unions had been given one hour’s prior notice of the details of the announcement and would be asking the company to justify its decision.

“The impact on Melksham and Wiltshire could be far-reaching. Many of the employees have young families and big mortgages and now their jobs are at risk.

“It doesn’t just affect Melksham, but also employees living in nearby towns such as Chippenham, Trowbridge, Westbury, Warminster and Swindon.

“Until we go into full consultation, we won’t know the justification for the decision that the company has made.”

Andy Newman, branch secretary of Wiltshire & Swindon GMB, said: “The government needs to talk to the trade unions and business leaders to ensure that businesses continue to succeed.

“Otherwise the prosperity of many of our small Wiltshire towns will become highly exposed to risk, each time a factory closes it has a devastating impact on communities.”