EIGHTY-SIX people were last night told they face redundancy from a North-East engineering company after a dramatic downturn in sales in recent weeks.

The jobs blow from Thyssenkrupp (TK) Tallent comes only two months after it announced a further 40 potential redundancies as it restructured its operation in the face of the economic downturn.

The Newton Aycliffe-based company, which employs more than 900 workers, said the move was due to “the challenges of the current economic climate (which) have resulted in a significant reduction in sales demand,”

but was necessary to safeguard the long-term future of the plant.

Last night, one employee told The Northern Echo the entire workforce was shocked at the level of potential job losses.

Consultation is now under way with union representatives in an attempt to minimise redundancies, which are expected to be confirmed by the end of the week. It is understood unions are pushing for options including a four-day week to safeguard jobs.

A spokeswoman for TK Tallent, which supplies chassis structural products, said its decision to potentially make the redundancies was taken “reluctantly”.

“Despite the loyal efforts of all employees to reduce costs and save jobs since a re-organisation in August, the challenges of the current economic climate have resulted in a significant reduction in sales demand,” she said.

“Working with the recognised trade union and employee representatives, it is hoped that the impact of these potential job losses can be minimised to secure the long-term future of the plant.”

The TK Tallent site in Newton Aycliffe, which is one of the biggest employers in the area, has grown steadily throughout its 60 years in the town, but admitted it has seen a stagnation in sales since the onset of the credit crunch earlier this year.

The Unite trade union called the redundancies “extremely disappointing,”

particularly in the wake of the re-organisation in August, which saw 40 potential redundancies being announced.

An employee at the site, who did not want to be named, said: “There was a big meeting when management made the announcement. Everyone was really shocked at the numbers they were talking about.

“At the moment it is not clear which departments will be targeted by the cuts, but it is not a good time for anyone.

“The union is in discussions with management to see if there is any other way to reduce costs without cutting jobs. One thing they are looking at is the possibility of a four-day week, which is not ideal, but what are the alternatives?

“A lot of people are already struggling with the loss of overtime, so the thought of going down to four days could prove too much for some staff who are struggling to pay their bills.

“We should find out by the end of the week where the cuts are being made and then it will be a matter of everyone trying to save their jobs.”