British American Tobacco is to close its two factories in the UK and Ireland, with the loss of around 600 jobs, as it looks to switch cigarette production to Asia and continental Europe.
The world’s second-largest cigarette group will close its Southampton factory within 18 to 24 months, with the loss of around 530 jobs.
Its unit in Ireland, PJ Carroll, is planning to close its plant in Dundalk, which employs 66 people. It is currently operating at 45% capacity following rises in tobacco taxes and Ireland’s ban on smoking in public places.
A BAT spokeswoman said the closures were forced by the two plants running at low capacity, a new European Union directive on higher-tar cigarettes and the cost savings from producing cigarettes nearer the markets in which they are consumed.
Ian MacLean, national officer for the company’s union Amicus, said: “This is devastating news for the workers and their families. BAT is one of the biggest employers in Southampton and I am extremely disappointed that the company has decided to end production at the plant.
“These jobs are of high quality and are very important to the local economy.”