THE SHOCK closure of a kitchen worktops company has left its 120-strong workforce reeling.

Emergency talks involving MPs and government ministers are now on-going in a desperate bid to try and assist workers who lost their jobs when Vertex in Shildon closed its doors last week.

Derek Foster MP for Bishop Auckland is holding talks with the Minister for Works and Pensions Nick Brown and Minister for Employment Relations Alan Johnson to try and safeguard the rights of the men who have not been paid for almost a fortnight.

He said: "The priority is to safeguard the employment rights of the existing workforce and to see if it's possible to get what money they are owed back. I am in continuing discussions with a number of bodies to see what we can do.''

Workers have spoken of their anger at the lack of communication surrounding the company's demise, with many not finding out that they had lost their jobs until they turned up for work on Tuesday last week.

Some of the men gathered outside the factory on the George Reynolds Industrial Estate to demand answers to be told they were being laid off.

Cheques in the week leading up to the closure have bounced with some of the men owed as much as £1,000.

One man said: "I have been a loyal worker and have never taken a day off in 13 years and this is the thanks I get.

"I was told by text message from a friend. We knew something was going on but they always had an answer for everything.''

Managing director of the Shildon company Joe Martoccia said that the company's quick demise came after its gas supply was cut off on Friday, February 21.

He said: "We were unable to recover after that. I can understand any bitterness and frustration that the workers feel.

"My colleagues and I have been working night and day to save this business and communication has not been what it should and I apologise for that."

A small number of workers have been kept on to try and keep the factory ticking over and receivers KPMG are still hopeful that it will be sold as a going concern and some of the 120 jobs will be saved.