Anger has greeted KONE’s plans to move escalator production from Keighley to China.

Local staff will be made redundant as Chinese workers take over manufacture of escalator parts.

The parts will be transported to Keighley in “flat packs” for assembly at the Dalton Lane factory.

The union Unite, which represents KONE workers, estimates only 15 of the 59 Keighley manufacturing jobs will be saved. Unite has been joined by Keighley MP Ann Cryer in blasting the China plans.

KONE, which has 32,000 workers worldwide, this week confirmed the proposals to the Keighley News.

Around 270 jobs elsewhere in KONE’s Keighley complex — including training, call centre and service staff — are not affected.

Mrs Cryer said KONE owed the many Keighley workers who had given “a lifetime of skilled dedication” to the company, formerly O&K Escalators.

And she pointed out that much of KONE’s UK custom came from public works such as London Transport, funded by the taxpayer.

She said: “It’s not about saving money, it’s about expanding their profit margins. I’m delighted they will assemble the escalators in Keighley but that’s not skilled work.

“We are losing highly skilled jobs. I don’t think they’ll be able to match them in China. “At a time when we are preparing for an economic upturn, we’re losing not only skilled workers but apprentices. There won’t be anyone for them to learn from.

“We have to fight for these jobs because it could be the thin end of the wedge. We have little enough manufacturing in this town. We can’t employ everyone as hairdressers.”

Union representative Mark Fieldhouse said Unite was moving forward with negotiations with KONE in an attempt to secure as many jobs as possible.

He said the part of the Keighley factory currently used for escalator manufacture would remain open but would be used to assemble escalators instead.

Some of the 59 Keighley staff facing redundancy might be able to switch roles, thanks to the planned move to Keighley from Watford of loading bay manufacture. Mr Fieldhouse said: “We may be looking at about 15 jobs being saved.”

Mr Fieldhouse said some of KONE’s customers had sought cheaper suppliers abroad and by moving to China KONE hoped to win back some of that business.

But he said: “It is a slap in the face for our taxpayers who fund this work. KONE is sending the work to China because it’s cheaper.”

A spokeswoman for KONE said the Keighley manufacturing unit provided specialist production of heavy-duty escalators to meet the company’s global demand.

She said: “KONE’s global escalator production is predominantly in China and the current plans involve moving this remaining element to improve global efficiencies and to meet global demand trends.

“UK customers will continue to experience a high level of service and quality as all escalators destined for UK customers will continue to be assembled, quality checked and dispatched through the Keighley facility.”

KONE said it appreciated Mrs Cryer’s offer to help and planned to have a meeting shortly to discuss its proposals with her.