Lancashire aerospace site at centre of strike action is shut until after Christmas

The Lancashire aerospace site mired in industrial action to save county jobs is to be closed until after Christmas.

Wednesday, 25th November 2020, 12:30 pm
Updated Wednesday, 25th November 2020, 12:48 pm

Bosses at Rolls Royce have announced that its Barnoldswick site, one of the key jewels in the county's extensive aerospace sector, will shut from Friday - Lancashire Day.

Staff at the site were already angry at the company's plans to close permanently part of the factory which produced fan blades for commercial airliners and transfer the work to the Far East to cut costs.

Now the Unite union which represents staff there has described the latest move as an act of "industrial self-mutilation".

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Rolls Royce staff working on fan blades for aircraft engines

Unite members have been undertaking targeted strike action since November 6, which was due to end on December 24, in a campaign to secure the future of the historic factory, the cradle of the jet engine. The campaign has become known as the Battle for Barnoldswick.

The union said that in a briefing staff were told that “on the basis of health and safety” the site would close for an extended Christmas shutdown and workers would not return until after Christmas.

They were also informed that work currently undertaken at Barnoldswick will be immediately transferred to Japan, Singapore and Spain.

Rolls-Royce has further announced that workers who are not part of the current targeted industrial action will be furloughed from Monday, November 30 until Friday, December 18, and will receive 80 per cent of their pay during this time.

The union added that the Rolls-Royce furlough was not part of the government’s Job Retention Scheme, nor is it something that has been agreed with Unite. As a consequence Unite is seeking urgent clarification and is considering a legal challenge to ensure the workers who were not on strike receive 100 per cent of their wages.

Unite regional officer Ross Quinn said: “We have consistently called on Rolls Royce to work with us to find the resolution that the members who have given their working lives to Rolls Royce deserve.

“However the company has shown absolutely no appetite to resolve the dispute. The decision to lock workers out of Barnoldswick before Christmas and to immediately offshore work at the factory demonstrates that Rolls-Royce has no intention of negotiating or consulting its loyal workers on its plans.

“Workers at Barnoldswick, who take huge pride in their work, began targeted industrial action as a last resort in order to ensure the future of the historic factory.

“By its actions today it appears that Rolls-Royce is simply not prepared to enter into negotiations and to preserve this historic site. Instead it has undertaken this course of action which damages workers, the local community and the historic Rolls-Royce brand.

“We remain committed to finding a resolution and call on the company to meet with Unite immediately before they do irreparable damage to this workforce and community.”

In August Rolls-Royce announced that it intended to offshore the work on its Trent jet engine blades from Barnoldswick to a site in Singapore, with the loss of 350 jobs. Unite has warned this would make the factory, which Rolls-Royce has operated for over 70 years, potentially unviable.

The loss of jobs or the potential closure of the site would have a devastating effect on the town and the community of Barnoldswick where Rolls-Royce remains the principal employer.

A spokesman for Rolls Royce said: “We always have a shutdown of our UK facilities over Christmas. In Barnoldswick we are having to carry out that shutdown early because the staff who help us close the site safely and securely are planning to be on strike from the end of this month.

"We will be furloughing employees – on 80 per cent of their normal pay – but will not be claiming this money back from the UK Government.

"Due to the length of the industrial action and unclear duration, we will have to source parts that would normally be made in Barnoldswick from other parts of our supply chain. This temporary use of dual source suppliers is needed to protect Rolls Royce customers and is not the same as moving work overseas.”

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