NEARLY 100 jobs are at risk across the region following the Co-operative Insurance Society (CIS) announcement that it plans to close hundreds of offices across the UK.

Union leaders last night vowed to fight any compulsory job losses after the company said it planned to close 106 offices with the loss of up to 900 jobs.

The Transport and General Workers Union said many long-serving staff felt a sense of anger and betrayal at the announcement that offices would close by the end of next year.

The 900 jobs to go include 93 in the North-East and North Yorkshire.

CIS is proposing to close branches in Darlington, Gates-head, Middlesbrough, Stanley, in County Durham, Sunderland, York and Scarborough, North Yorkshire, and two in Newcastle.

The Co-op said it planned a phased closure programme to transfer administrative work to its head office in Manchester.

Chief executive Mervyn Pedelty said: "Difficult decisions of this kind are not taken lightly and where jobs are lost we will make every effort to minimise the need for redundancies, wherever possible.

"We are working closely with those staff affected and our trade union partners and, in keeping with our Co-operative values and social responsibilities, we will look to redeploy staff wherever possible.''

Dave McCall, a representative of the Transport and General Workers Union, said many of the workers had given long and loyal service to the Co-op.

He said: ''The union is committed to playing a robust role in the detailed consultation that will now happen.

''We will make sure that everyone's interests are properly looked after in terms of possible job transfers, relocations or retraining, as appropriate. If redundancy remains the only option, we will oppose any compulsion.''

The Co-op said that up to 350 jobs would be transferred to the head office and there could be redeployment opportunities.

A spokeswoman said: "The branches are not like bank branches, they are rarely customer-service-facing roles.

"The positions are administrative clerks, but with new technology, we are able to do a lot more of the work at head office."