WORKERS at the Michelin tyre factory in Dundee have been given a “kick in the teeth” with the announcement of its planned closure in 2020, according to a local union boss.

Bob McGregor, regional officer for Unite at the factory, said that until Monday night, when news of the closure was leaked, he and union colleagues thought the plant’s future was guaranteed.

READ MORE: Anger as Michelin factory workers discover closure through online leak

“It was a kick in the teeth,” he told The National. “Until the announcement was made – at least in the media yesterday – that was the plan we thought we were signing up to today.”

The Dundee outpost of French -headquartered Michelin specialises in small tyres, but has suffered as the market became flooded with cheap imports, mainly from Asia.

However, McGregor said the viability plan they had been working on until Monday had addressed that concern.

“France were well aware of the plan and what it would have delivered in efficiency savings and cost-cutting for the factory,” he said.

“It talked about two stages of down-manning to cover any eventuality – an initial down-manning of around 120 to see how that fitted with the production requirements from Europe. And if there was further down-manning needed it was built into the plan, so it was robust. This has come out of left-field for us – we found out from a press release.

“Somebody has leaked it, but we don’t know who. It wasn’t us because we didn’t know.”

Economy Secretary Derek Mackay said the Scottish Government will do all it can to secure the future of Michelin workers.

An action group has been established and will have its first meeting in the city on Monday.

John Alexander, leader of Dundee City Council, said the proposed shutdown was a “body blow” for all 845 workers.

Staff met at the plant yesterday, while production has been suspended until tomorrow to allow them to digest the news.

Mackay, who met representatives from Michelin, Unite and the council, said: “This is devastating news for the area and that’s why the Scottish Government is totally focused on trying to salvage what we can from the situation.

“The company does not want to revisit the decision but that’s not going to deter me from putting forward the best possible proposition I can for the workforce.

“We can look at a range of interventions and I call on the UK Government to step up to the plate as well.”

Mackay met senior Michelin executives in Paris on Sunday after learning of the planned closure.

He added: “I do believe there’s hope for the factory but only if we all pull together.”

Dundee MPs Stewart Hosie and Chris Law both raised the closure with Chancellor Philip Hammond in the Commons yesterday.

Hosie called on him to do whatever he can to protect and preserve as many jobs as possible.

Law asked if Hammond would consider further funding to the Tay Cities Deal and work constructively with the Scottish Government to provide support for the workforce.

Hosie said: “The Chancellor must work constructively with the Scottish Government to ensure we mitigate the impact of these potential job losses on the community.”

Law added: “This was devastating news for all the hard-working people and their families at Michelin.

“The UK Government must consider further funding to the Tay Cities Seal and work constructively with the Scottish Government to support the workforce at Michelin.”

McGregor said the problem of cheap imports had been a running sore for years and the company knew the market was declining.

“We’ve been lobbying Westminster on cheap imports for years, almost a decade, and there’s been no action,” he said.

“They did the same with the steel industry, letting the market become flooded with cheap Chinese steel and then once the steel plants in the UK closed, they talked to the EU about paying some tariffs … but it wasn’t tariffs that would have a massive impact on the market. That’s what we wanted in place.”

John Reid, the CEO and factory manager at Michelin Dundee, said: “This factory has faced incredibly tough challenges before and we have come through thanks to the hard work and flexibility of our people and the union, and the backing of the Michelin Group.

“However, the market for smaller tyres we make has changed dramatically and permanently, and the company has to address these structural changes.”

Marc Jackson, Unite Michelin convenor said: “It is important to stress to the workforce and the wider community in Dundee that Unite has a viable plan on the table.

“It is a plan that can work for the workforce and the company.

“The flexibility agreement, which we believed would be signed-off this week, takes into consideration the current challenging market conditions but we have a plan in place to manage this situation over the coming years.”