THE fight to save 180 manufacturing jobs begins today as union officials meet the company planning to ship them to Europe.

Manufacturer SKF announced last week a proposal to shut down its factory on Oldends Lane near Stroudwater Business Park, Stonehouse, pending negotiations with representatives of 180 workers who face redundancy.

SKF, which makes bearings for the aerospace industry, has proposed ceasing manufacturing at the factory by December 31, 2021, and moving production to sites in Italy and France where it can make “better use” of modern machines.

A company spokesman denied that the closure proposal is directly related to Brexit.

About 100 of the employees are part of union Unite, which said its members are prepared to fight to keep the site open.

One of the union’s regional officers, Nick Bailey, said: “Our members are devastated to hear the site will be closing. We will be pressing the management for the business rationale behind the decision.

“This is a massive blow for the Gloucestershire economy, which can ill-afford to lose such highly skilled jobs. The initial response from our members has been that they want to fight to keep the site open, so we will do all we can to support them.”

Announcing the proposal, the president of SKF’s automotive and aerospace division, Bernd Stephan, said: “This consolidation is necessary to secure a continued competitive offering for the aerospace industry as it shifts away from legacy engines and aircraft to more modern ones.”