Responding to the news today (May 20) that Rolls-Royce is to cut 9,000 jobs globally, 3,375 of them in the UK, by the end of 2020 with more to come in 2021, Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing Steve Turner said, “The news that Rolls Royce is preparing to throw thousands of skilled, loyal, world class workers, their families and communities under the bus during the worst public health crisis since 1918 is shameful opportunism.”
Unite is concerned that Rolls-Royce will do as it has done in the past – and have the majority of its planned job cuts fall upon the UK.
The confirmation is serious news across the entire of the aerospace and aviation sectors. In recent days, we’ve reported that at least 28,000 potential job cuts in the sectors and associated industries, including, Rolls-Royce and British Airways, have been announced. That figure now is over 30,000 jobs at risk.
“In recent weeks, thousands of skilled jobs have gone and we are seriously concerned that we are going back to the dark days of the 1980s when businesses ran away from their responsibilities to workers who were the basis of their success,” commented Steve Turner.
“Actions then condemned hundreds of thousands to unemployment and our status as a major manufacturing nation was destroyed.
“Our country became a divided and depleted place as a result. We appeal to government and employers, do not repeat the mistakes of the past.”
And Turner is not alone. Only today Unite assistant general secretary, Diana Holland, gave evidence to a parliamentary sub-committee on coronavirus and the aviation sector. She said that she was “extremely concerned” about the future of the aviation industry.
“If there isn’t revenue coming in to the industry it’s not just the airlines [affected], it’s the airports, it’s everything down the line and of course all the people that work there.
“We are extremely worried about the future, and that’s why we need to come together now to look at what plan we have to restart, to rebuild confidence.”
Holland acknowledged that there may be “temporary changes” to jobs, pay, terms and conditions, but stressed these must not be “decimated for the future”. She added, “This is about all of us.”
Back at Rolls-Royce Turner told members that Unite was there for them. “Our members, fearful and anxious already in the face of a pandemic, will be shocked and distressed by this news, but we say to them we have their back at this difficult time.
‘No stone unturned’
“We will leave no stone unturned in our fight to protect skilled jobs and the backbone of our manufacturing sector.”
Turner confirmed Unite would be, “meeting with the company over the coming days to convince them to take a different approach, and pressing the government to step up to the plate to protect our manufacturing base.
“This company has accepted public money to furlough thousands of workers. Unite and Britain’s taxpayers deserve a more responsible approach to a national emergency. We call upon Rolls-Royce to step back from the brink and work with us on a better way through this crisis,” he added.
With the level of potential job losses across aerospace and aviation Unite is insisting on urgent government intervention.
“This is no time for the government to sit on the sidelines,” said Turner. “UK manufacturing has shown that it can adapt quickly to the needs of the nation, working around the clock to produce the kit needed to protect the sick and key workers during this national crisis. Do not let this incredible national resource go to the wall.
“I repeat my calls to government: we urgently need you to work with unions and industry on a programme to take industry through the next phase of this crisis.”
One idea that has been mooted is setting up a National Council for Recovery. It’s understood that this would be a tripartite, cross party body to develop a clear plan and strategy to recover and rebuild post-Covid-19.
“Establish a National Council for Recovery and work with us,” urged Turner, “sending a clear signal that there is a strategy to reposition UK Plc and build Britain out of this dreadful situation. That is what a nervous business community needs in order to keep investing in our jobs and communities.
“Without this plan more companies will sack more people and the mass unemployment, broken families and devastated communities that we all dread will become a stark reality.”
Compiled by Amanda Campbell @amanda_unite