HOPES of an economic recovery for Huntingdon have been dealt a blow with a round of 70 potential job losses announced at a major employer in the town.

HOPES of an economic recovery for Huntingdon were dealt a blow this week with a round of 70 potential job losses announced at a major employer in the town.

Bed manufacturers Myer's in Windover Road has revealed it is looking at making redundancies from its 414-strong workforce as part of a major restructuring process, which will also include changes in working practices and to the final salary pension scheme.

Poor market sales and soaring prices for raw materials were blamed for the move. Two years ago, the 135-year old company, founded by Horatio Myer in London, made around 90 people redundant in the wake of the credit crunch.

As yet the company is shedding no further light on where the cuts would be made, but a trade union spokesman said redundancies were being considered across the board.

A 30-day period of consultation was due to begin with staff next Wednesday, April 6, with a final decision likely to be made in May.

A statement issued by Myer's commercial director David Chrystal said: "We read daily in the press that overall UK consumer demand has weakened. In our market sector sales have dropped by up to 20 per cent during the past 12 months.

"The reduction in orders combined with soaring material prices has contributed to this decision. The business faces substantial challenges. Among other influences, there is the stagnant housing market, exacerbated by instability in the financial market.

"With the potential of interest rate increases and the prospect of substantial job reductions in the public sector it means that consumer confidence and spending are being relentlessly squeezed.

"The management believes that the outlook for 2011 remains challenging. In order to ensure the business will be in a strong position to respond to any recovery in the market, a decision has been taken to enter into consultation with employees on potential redundancies, more agile working practices and changes to the final salary pension schemes."

Alan Costello, a regional representative for the GMB union, said the announcement came as no surprise to staff. For six weeks the workforce has been on short-term working.

Mr Costello said: "Short-term working historically is followed by redundancies. It certainly was not unexpected, but I was not expecting that many. Most departments will be impacted.

"The company is reducing the workforce to meet the demands of a reducing workload, but hopefully we will come out the other side of this process a stronger organisation."

He added those who were made redundant would face an uphill struggle getting back into work.

"The Huntingdonshire area is not doing particularly well in relation to employment. Myer's used to be one of the biggest employers in Huntingdon. A lot of manufacturing has disappeared. Hotel Chocolat are the only people recruiting.

"There is only so much we can do. We can point people in the right direction, but there is not a lot of work in that area and not much more in Peterborough. Certain age groups - the under-20s and over-50s - are finding it particularly hard."