Unite will not let ‘cradle of the jet engine’ die

Strike action announced at Rolls-Royce’s Lancs plant in battle to stop jobs offshoring bid

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Workers at the historic Rolls-Royce factory at Barnoldswick in Lancashire will embark on three weeks of targeted strike action beginning next month, as part of the Unite-led campaign to preserve the viability of the factory.


In August, Rolls-Royce announced that it was intent on offshoring the production of its Trent Engine blades, which are made at Barnoldswick to a factory in Singapore, with the loss of 350 workers.


Unite believes that this would make the factory, which Rolls-Royce has owned since 1943 and is the cradle of the jet engine, potentially unviable.


Earlier this month, members of Unite returned a 94 per cent ‘yes’ vote in favour of industrial action.


Unite delayed issuing strike dates to give Rolls-Royce a final chance to alter its plans by cancelling its offshoring proposals or by ensuring that Barnoldswick remains viable by introducing similar work and employment levels, to settle the dispute over compulsory redundancies, but with no such commitments forthcoming strike action has been called.


The targeted strike action will begin on Friday 6 November at 06:30 and end on Friday 27 November at 19:00.


Since Rolls-Royce’s announcement that it was intent on offshoring the work there has been a huge outpouring of opposition in Barnoldswick with the local community uniting to oppose the offshoring and the threat to the factory, which has been vital to the town’s economic wellbeing since World War Two.


The announcement of the industrial action comes at a time when Rolls-Royce is in the process of seeking to secure £5bn in additional investment through a £2bn rights issue, the issuing of £2bn of bonds and £1bn of support from the UK government.


‘Every opportunity to change its plans’ 

“Unite has given Rolls-Royce every opportunity to change its plans, confirm there will be no more compulsory redundancies and guarantee the long-term future of Barnoldswick, but it has refused to do so,” commented Unite regional officer Ross Quinn.


“To offshore work and destroy the viability of this historic factory would be nothing short of industrial vandalism.


“As a consequence and as a last resort, Unite has instructed its members to take targeted strike action in order to bring Rolls-Royce to the negotiating table.


“Barnoldswick is the cradle of the jet engine and the workforce and the local community will not allow Rolls-Royce to destroy the viability of the site without a huge fight,” he added.


Unite national officer Rhys McCarthy agreed, adding, “It is simply unacceptable that Rolls-Royce is seeking to offshore the jobs of workers in the UK, while at the same time that it is going cap in hand to the UK government for £1bn in financial support.


“There is still time before strike action begins for Rolls-Royce to reverse the decision to offshore jobs, or present alternative plans to ensure the Barnoldswick factory’s long term future at similar employment levels. It is hoped it uses the next two weeks wisely.


“If Rolls-Royce is prepared to propose a viable future for Barnoldswick, then Unite will meet them at any time to resolve this dispute and secure a deal to preserve the jobs and the future of the factory,” McCarthy continued.


By Shaun Noble

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