Hope on the horizon

Unite members at Rolls-Royce Barnoldswick consider landmark deal as strikes suspended

Reading time: 5 min

Nine weeks of strike action was suspended on Friday (January 8) at the Rolls-Royce factory in Barnoldswick, Lancashire, as the members of Unite consider a landmark deal that would save 350 jobs and give the site a bright future.

Unite suspended the strikes on Friday to allow the workforce to consider proposals which have been hammered out by the union with the unanimous backing of the plant committee, the shop stewards and convenors.

If agreed, the deal will give the historic site, which has sat at the heart of the community for 80 years, a new lease of life as the company’s centre of training and excellence and cement Rolls-Royce as a key player in green and emerging technologies.

The future of the factory, home of the Lancaster bomber, was thrown into grave doubt last summer when Rolls-Royce announced that it was transferring the production of its Trent jet engine blade work to Singapore.

Unite members feared that the removal of the work from the site without equivalent work to replace it would signal the end of the Barnoldswick site. They mounted a huge campaign to defend it and protect the local economy, which is heavily dependent on the plant.

The workforce are meeting this week to decide on acceptance of the deal.

Announcing the suspension of the strike, Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing Steve Turner, who led the team that negotiated the agreement, said, “This workforce, their union and this community have battled long and hard for a brighter future and there is now very real hope of this on the horizon.

“For many of our members, this breakthrough will be an emotional time as the security that they can continue to provide for their families inches closer,” he added.

“We are suspending the strike action which has been underway at the site for eight weeks so that our members can look at the detail of the proposals and come to a decision when they meet next week.

“We are advising our members that this deal comes with the unanimous backing of the shop floor leadership, which is an overwhelming reflection of this union’s confidence in the proposals.

“Every minute of the past nine weeks, this workforce, their friends and neighbours and their union have battled for a brighter future,” Turner continued.

“The determination and courage that they have shown, even in the bleakest of moments, has been inspiring and I am hugely proud to represent these workers and play our part in giving this community a future.

“I hope working people everywhere take inspiration from this dispute. Never give up, there is always hope – and Unite will fight for you with every step of the way.

“We look forward to resuming discussions with the members at the earliest possibility as we continue the work of securing a great future for this site so that it can continue to play its part in the successful rebuilding of UK manufacturing.”

The workforce began targeted strike action on November 6 last year which ran until Christmas Eve. Workers then returned to the picket lines at the start of 2021 (January 4). In total, the workforce has undertaken eight weeks of strike action.

Rolls Royce is the major employer in Barnoldswick and the factory, the cradle of the jet engine, has been in operation since 1943. The closure of the site or a substantial reduction in work being undertaken at it, would have devastating consequences for the prosperity of the local community.

Stay tuned on UniteLIVE as this story develops. We’ll be here to bring you the latest news when members vote on the deal.

By UniteLive team

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