THE planned closure of Unilever’s Warrington factory has been put on hold, with extra staff also being taken on due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Fifteen new roles have been created at the Crosfields site, with machine operator posts having been advertised online.

It comes after a rise in demand for products manufactured at the plant, including its Persil and Surf washing powders, during the covid-19 pandemic.

The company confirmed only last month that it is planning to close the historic factory after more than 130 years.

While it was expected to have shut by the end of 2020, the closure could now be postponed.

A spokesman for Unilever said: "Due to the covid-19 outbreak, we are in an unprecedented period of uncertainty.

"Our number one priority is the wellbeing of our employees and we have introduced the most stringent health and safety measures in our factories, including thermal screening, enhanced cleaning, stepped up hygiene measures and social distancing, to keep all our employees as safe as possible.

Warrington Guardian:

"Our Unilever factories in the UK, including our Warrington site, have a vitally important role to play at the moment in continuing to provide everyday essential products to customers and communities during this time of significant need.

"During this increasingly challenging period, our leadership team at Warrington has agreed, with the trade union and employee consultation group, that the focus now should be on the immediate priorities of employee wellbeing and business continuity.

"We will continue to talk regularly to the consultation group and seek to identify an appropriate point at which to consult on the proposals – we have recently brought in some additional agency workers to help us with the enhanced cleaning and safety measures we have introduced at the factory."

But some workers at the Bank Quay factory have criticised Unilever for continuing production at the site amid increased government measures to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.

One staff member, who does not wish to be named, described its practices as ‘profit before people’.

They added: "This company is making its employees work through this pandemic.

"For a factory that is shutting, they are taking on 15 more people to cope with the demand – and ironically enough our tonnage of powder has dramatically risen.

"The shutdown of the factory has been called off for the meantime.

"This is corporate greed on their behalf."