A PACKED meeting at Andover’s Guildhall heard rallying calls to save 129 jobs at the town’s Twinings factory and stop the closure of the iconic company’s North Shields site.

The meeting on Tuesday night – organised by Derek Kotz – heard USDAW steward Peter Millward accuse the company of ‘corporate greed’ claiming it was making a profit of between £65m and £70m this year.

“They have cut so much back that there is nothing left to cut other than our jobs,” he said. “And yet the workforce has been loyal to the company and has bent over backwards to be flexible and productive.”

And when asked by the Lib/Dem prospective parliamentary candidate for North West Hampshire, Tom McCann, how many people would support Twinings workers if they decided to strike, a number of people put up their hands.

He said: “You have to be the backbone. If you don’t support us we can’t win.”

Andover MP Sir George Young, who was described by Mr Millward as Ghost Town George, sent his apologies and said in a letter he had been in constant negotiations with the company to get the best possible outcome.

He also stressed the need to engage with Twinings and argued that accusing it of ‘corporate greed’ was unlikely to make the company change its mind.

USDAW organiser Mike Parsonage said: “This most English of English companies has underestimated its workforce.

“They believed that it would not fight and, perhaps, would be bought off by redundancy payments. Well, they got it badly wrong.

“The fight has begun – the battle is yet to be won.”

Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for North West Hampshire, Sarah Evans, said: “I’ve been stunned by the level of support that we’ve had for the Twinings workforce.

“I would like to pledge my support and will continue to fight to save these jobs and other jobs in the area.”

Megan Dobney, secretary of the southern and eastern TUC, also spoke at the meeting as well as a representative from the staff at North Shields.