Cooper Tires is threatening to axe up to 300 manufacturing jobs at its site in Wiltshire in what union representatives said would be a “major blow” to the local economy.

Cooper Tires informed staff during a mass meeting on Wednesday that it was exploring whether to halt light vehicle tyre production at its Melksham site in Wiltshire over a 10-month period.

It would mean letting go of a significant portion of its workforce to shift production to a different site.

“Subject to consultation, light vehicle tyres currently produced in Melksham may be obtained by Cooper Tire Europe from other sites within Cooper’s global manufacturing footprint to meet customer needs,” the company said.

“The goal of the proposed change is to ensure Cooper Tire Europe is best placed for future success in a cost-competitive, globalised environment,” Cooper Tires added.

Cooper Tires is one of Melksham’s biggest employers, with about 700 workers producing tyres for cars, motorbikes and racing cars.

Unite the union said the near-300 job cuts are expected to impact the car tyre side of the business, which the union said has been impacted by the dumping of cheap tyres from countries like China.

The company said it was launching a consultation period with staff over the move.

Unite regional officer Tony Hulbert, said: “These proposed job losses will be a ‘hammer blow’ for the Coopers workforce and the community, sending shockwaves through the local economy.

“Unite will be doing everything it can to support our members through this difficult time.

“In the coming days and weeks Unite will be scrutinising the business case for these proposed job cuts and fighting for every job to minimise the number of redundancies.

“Unite will also be pressing bosses for guarantees of no compulsory redundancies.”

Jaap van Wessum, general manager of Cooper Tire Europe, said the factory may be too old to modernise for future production plans.

“Unfortunately, the Melksham site is an older, smaller facility that does not offer economies of scale and it is the highest cost facility in the global Cooper network.

“Due to facility age and location in the centre of town, it is our current view, subject to consultation, that it is not economically feasible to modernise or expand there for light vehicle tyre production.”

But Mr van Wessum stressed that it would not mean leaving Wiltshire entirely.

“It is important to underscore that if we ultimately cease light vehicle tyre production in Melksham, Cooper is not leaving the Melksham community.

“It is the home of Cooper Tire Europe’s headquarters, sales and marketing offices, Europe Technical Centre, and materials business.

“We plan to continue manufacturing specialised motorsports and motorcycle tyres at the Melksham plant. If redundancies occur, Cooper Tire Europe will still employ hundreds locally and continue to honour its existing obligations.”