A CARAVAN maker in the region has laid off around 450 staff amid economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, The Northern Echo understands.

Workers at Elddis in Delves Lane, near Consett, have been told not to come into work for the next four weeks due to a downturn in business caused by the growing crisis.

There is concern among employees the four-week layoff period could turn into permanent redundancies if the business does not recover quickly.

One member of staff, who does not want to be identified, said: “All production has been affected. It is horrible. I have had lads crying at my bench and others with tears in their eyes. They live week-to-week.

“One of the lads has just signed for his mortgage on Monday and has got a two-month-old baby. It is a proper bombshell.”

The staff member said they had been told dealers were closing down and the people were not buying caravans and motorhomes this year as they traditionally tend to at the start of the season.

It comes during major disruption to the travel industry as campsites are closing to due to fears over the Covid-19 outbreak and people are being asked to stay at home.

Caravan sites closing due to coronavirus 

He said: “The dealers are all shutting so there is nowhere to put the vans.

“No-one is taking the vans and no-one is buying. It has affected all of our production so we have just had to stop.

“They are just playing it by ear. They say it is out of their hands. I have got a mortgage and two kids. Mine is the only income in the house.

“It is not good.”

Staff were told on Thursday they will be paid one week at £29 a day before they have to apply for Universal Credit.

It is understood the firm is not shutting down entirely and there will around 80 staff working to dispatch vans and work in the office.

Elddis, part of the Erwin Hymer Group, is one of the largest private employers in the Consett area with many long-serving staff.

It is one of the largest caravan makers in the country.

Durham County Councillor Jane Brown said it was devastating news for the community.

She said: “It will have a huge impact because Consett relies on people being employed.

“We are already suffering, as is everyone with the virus, but people really do not know how they are going to afford to pay their mortgages.

“I know they can take a mortgage break but how long is it going to take that workforce to get back into employment?

“People are going to be unable to pay their bills or feed themselves. It could get to that point.”

The company began as Elddis in 1964 and was formed transport magnate Siddle Cook who made miniature caravans as a hobby.

No one from the company was available for comment.