Rolls-Royce accused of 'choking company's future' as it announces 140 more jobs cuts at Barnoldswick

A further 140 job losses have been announced at Barnoldswick's embattled Rolls-Royce plant today, just weeks before Christmas.

Thursday, 3rd December 2020, 3:45 pm
The Rolls-Royce Barnoldswick site

The job losses at the engineering giant, which employs people from around East Lancashire, were described as "a massive blow" by Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson, while his Labour opponents called on the Government to do more to protect jobs.

Unite, the union, described Rolls-Royce's announcement of fresh job losses as "choking the company’s future", while the proposals to transfer or rundown parts of the business were branded as "selling the family silver."

Rolls-Royce said in a statement today that the Covid-19 global pandemic had severely impacted the whole commercial aviation industry, and although it admitted that the news was upsetting to its Barnoldswick workers, the company vowed not to close the site.

Due to the significant reduction in global demand from airlines for our products and services, which is forecast to last several years, we must reduce our manufacturing capacity and cost base in order to protect our remaining workforce.

A Rolls-Royce spokesman said: “The measures we have taken so far, while significant, are not enough to off-set the continued reduction in workload across our facilities and as a result, today we are proposing to consolidate the manufacture of aero-engine structures into ITP Aero.

"ITP Aero, currently undergoing its own restructuring, offers a more cost competitive option than our existing structures facility in Barnoldswick. We are commencing consultation on a proposal to close the structures facility on the site.

“While this will be hugely upsetting news for our colleagues in Barnoldswick, this does not mean we are closing our Barnoldswick site. Following our proposal in August to relocate part of our fan blade manufacturing, Barnoldswick will be the home of a product development and technical support centre for wide chord fan blades and continue to manufacture blades for a range of Defence and Civil Aerospace applications.”

Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson told Leader Times Newspapers that he had stressed that the transfer of work from Barnoldswick to Singapore was wrong, when he met the company's chief executive Warren East on Monday.

He said: “This is another massive blow for the Barnoldswick site, local workers and our local area.

"The company’s highly skilled workforce gives it significant competitive advantage and once those skills are lost, they are lost for ever. I asked Warren directly about rumours further work would be transferred from the site, for example to ITP in Spain which they intend to sell off, but he dodged the question. Sadly today's announcement proves those rumours were true.

“I remain in regular contact with Mark Porter, from Unite the Union and applaud the strikers and all those who are doing what they can to attract attention to the shameful way workers at the Barnoldswick sites are being treated.

"I spoke with the Secretary of State for Business Alok Sharma again yesterday about what Rolls Royce are doing as well as Jeremy Quinn, the Minister for Defence Procurement. Given the huge amount of financial support being provided to Rolls Royce by the UK government it is outrageous for them to treat local workers so disgracefully.”

Labour's Andy McDonald MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Employment Rights and Protections, had earlier met workers online who are on strike over the threat of hundreds of jobs being shipped overseas.

There are currently 550 employees at the plant, almost half the number there were two years ago. Rolls-Royce now plans to offshore a further 350 jobs, which Unite the union says will make the factory unviable.

Mr McDonald said: “The Government has a role to play to broker a deal. Ministers should be insisting that Rolls-Royce sits down with Unite to negotiate, to protect jobs and keep the Barnoldswick site open.

“It is wrong that a company that is currently in the process of securing billions of pounds of taxpayer money can cut jobs in the UK to offshore work.”

Barnoldswick – the home of the jet engine – built engines for RAF planes during the Second World War.

Unite national officer Rhys McCarthy said: “Rolls-Royce's timing of the latest round of job losses stinks, workers have been left fearing for their futures as Christmas approaches.

“This announcement amounts to a death by a thousand cuts will send a chill through Rolls-Royce’s workers and the entire supply chain.

“Choking the company's future like this is clearly about pacifying the city and shareholders in the short term, while disregarding the hopes and concerns of workers and their families.

“Unite will be arguing that the decision to make apprentices redundant must be reversed, they are the future life blood of the company and their loss will affect the long-term success of Rolls-Royce.

“Plans to sell the Hucknall plant and transfer work from Barnoldswick and Inchinnan is selling the family silver, the work is crucial to Rolls-Royce and the skills of the workforce are unique.

“The blame for the latest job losses must also fall on the government. Unlike other countries such as France and Germany, it has failed to provide specific support to the aerospace sector, which is resulting in job losses being far steeper in the UK than in other countries.

“Unite is calling on the government to immediately step in to prevent these job losses and to ensure the future of the aerospace sector in the UK.

“Unite is fully prepared to enter into detailed negotiations with Rolls-Royce to fully consider all alternatives in order to preserve jobs and guarantee the future of all the company’s manufacturing plants.”