HUNDREDS of workers at a Chandler's Ford contact lens company are facing the prospect of being thrown on the dole queue, the Daily Echo can reveal.

Workers at Ocular Sciences' Chandler's Ford factory were yesterday called to a mass meeting to be told that their jobs could be on the line.

A worker, who wished to remain anonymous, said workers were summoned to a mass meeting at 9.45am yesterday.

He said they were told that 1,000 jobs were going. The sudden announcement has stunned the workforce, particularly coming so close to Christmas.

The worker said: "This has come totally out of the blue. A lot of women were very upset. For most of us it has not sunk in yet. Tomorrow is my last shift before Christmas."

He understood that proposed job cuts were being blamed on the strength of the pound and falling demand for certain types of contact lenses.

Ocular employs 1,400 workers at its sites at Chandler's Ford, Romsey and Fareham.

Briefing meetings with workers were going on today and tomorrow.

Ciaran Maher, managing director at Ocular Sciences UK said: "Ocular Sciences Inc has announced a restructuring of its manufacturing organisation.

"Detailed plans surrounding the restructuring will be formulated in consultation with the employee representatives.

"We will be communicating these plans to our employees as soon as practicable in the new year."

He said the decision had been brought about by conditions in the worldwide market place where many companies were seeking to reduce costs.

"At this moment we cannot put a figure as to how many people will be affected by this decision.

"We were in the process of briefing our employees over this weekend and we will then begin the consultation process in the new year.

"Despite these changes the company remains optimistic about its future in the Southampton area."

The job bombshell is understood to be part of the San Francisco-based giant's global programme to cut annual manufacturing costs by £22.5m over the next two years.