By Ben Simmons

Unite, Britain's biggest union, has vowed to fight the closure of the pharmaceutical factory Sanofi Aventis which employs 450 people in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Yesterday, on the same day the latest unemployment figures revealed the North East has the highest jobless rate in the country, Sanofi Aventis announced the closure of its factory in Fawdon, Newcastle upon Tyne, with no prior warning to the workforce or Unite.

Sanofi Aventis, a pharmaceutical company which makes solid dose medication at the factory, has blamed the 'challenging pharmaceutical market in Europe'.

Unite has accused the company of failing to give the union any prior warning, or consult with a view to finding ways to avoid closure. The company announced the factory will close by 2015. Unite believes there is still time to find a solution to any challenges that might exist and avert the closure.

"The way the workforce and the union were advised this site is to close is completely unacceptable,” says Unite national officer Linda McCulloch. “There was no prior warning and no consultation. This would never have been allowed to happen in other EU countries such as France or Germany. The company would have been expected to work with the union to explore ways to keep the site open.

"Unite is going to fight this closure. This company has benefited from the commitment of the local community for decades. We now expect the company to sit down with the union to explore every avenue possible to keep manufacturing at this site. The workforce at the company deserves better than being told at a moment’s notice that the site is to close and then being sent home.

"We are appalled at the way this has been handled — there has been scant regard for the hard working and skilled workforce.

"The North East has the highest rate of unemployment in the country. More than one in ten workers are unemployed. The company has behaved unacceptably. It is time it got serious about its responsibility to the workforce which has shown them so much loyalty."

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