A group of specialist engineers employed at the Rolls-Royce plant in Barnoldswick, Lancashire began strike action today (July 19) after fears for the long term future of the site resurfaced.
Members of Unite held a long running strike before Christmas in opposition to plans to scale back production at the factory, the cradle of the jet engine, and which workers believed spelt the long-term demise of the factory.
Following the industrial action an agreement was reached between Rolls-Royce and Unite which guaranteed the future of the factory. Crucially, as part of the deal it was agreed that Barnoldswick would continue with a minimum headcount of 350 workers and a centre of excellence would be built to train the workers of tomorrow.
However following a meeting in mid-May Unite was forced to issue a failure to agree notice with Rolls-Royce as local managers made it clear that they were not planning to reach the 350 headcount figure and the offload of work had been accelerated.
Unite has been attempting to resolve the matter and seek reassurances about Barnoldswick’s long-term future, without success. This has left Unite and the workforce no option but to take strike action to end the fears that the site is once again under threat.
The initial ballot of 17 engineers will lead to targeted strike action beginning on Monday, July 19 with the final day of strike action on Friday, July 23, which will affect the planned annual shutdown at the factory.
Further strike action involving the engineers is scheduled to begin on Monday, August 9 and ending on Friday, August 20, which will continue to cause major disruption at the factory.
Unite will now ballot for strike action all of the remaining workers in the factory and manufacturing engineering staff who validate work at Barnoldswick and throughout the world. If they vote in favour of industrial action, strikes could begin late this summer.
Unite regional officer Ross Quinn said, “Our members have been forced to take strike action as the long-term viability of Barnoldswick is once again under threat.
“Our members at Barnoldswick are rightly concerned for their futures,” he added. “They did not take part in nine weeks of strike action for the employer to go back to their original plan in two years time.
“All Unite is seeking is strict guarantees that the January agreement is fully honoured by Rolls-Royce.
“Unite has been seeking to resolve this dispute through negotiation but the company has failed to issue the assurances that workers need,” Quinn continued.
“If Rolls-Royce provides those guarantees then the strike action can be called off.”
“When Barnoldswick was first under threat, the entire community got behind the campaign and Unite will be rebuilding that coalition in the new battle to save Barnoldswick.”
By Barckley Sumner