OLDER workers facing redundancy from Terry's in York fear their pensions could be badly hit.

One employee told the Evening Press that staff in their 50s - who had stuck loyally with the company for decades - were concerned they would suffer drastic reductions in the pensions they would receive.

He believed up to 50 employees could be badly affected, with some losing at least 50 per cent of the pension they would have received had they been able to carry on working there for a few more years.

John Kirk, regional organiser with the GMB union, said the unions had concerns about the impact on pensions of the redundancy proposals, but was still waiting for information from the company on what the revised figures would be.

A spokesman for Terry's American owners, Kraft Foods, which wants to close the factory and move production abroad, with the loss of more than 300 jobs, said pensions were part of the consultation process.

They would therefore be discussed with unions and employee representatives at consultation meetings, and the company felt it would not be appropriate to comment in detail while the consultation was ongoing.

Meanwhile, the unions are continuing to gather information as they attempt to put forward a counter-proposal to Kraft's decision to transfer all production abroad.

While the unions accept that Terry's needs to move out of its under-utilised landmark factory building near York Racecourse, they are hoping to persuade the company to move some production - for example of the famous Chocolate Orange - to a new purpose-built factory in the York area.

Their efforts have won support from almost 5,000 Evening Press readers who signed the newspaper's Save Terry's petition, which was handed to the company last week. Support has come from workers past and present, and from readers online from all over the world. Retired senior Terry's managers, and members of the original Terry family, have also given their backing.

However, even if - against the odds - the unions were to succeed in their efforts, it is thought that fewer than 100 Terry's jobs would remain, with more than 200 still facing redundancy.

Updated: 09:51 Tuesday, June 15, 2004