Union anger as Rolls-Royce shutters factory until New Year

By Tim Aldred

25 Nov 2020

Workers' union Unite has reacted angrily to the decision by Rolls-Royce to close its Barnoldswick factory throughout December while work is transferred around the world.

Rolls-Royce says that the factory closure is a routine health and safety measure. But Unite believes it relates to the targeted strike action which has been in place since 6 November, which was due to end on 24 December.

Employees have been informed that work currently undertaken at the Lancashire site will be immediately transferred to Japan, Singapore and Spain.

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

The fall-out between Unite and Rolls-Royce dates back to an August decision 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.

Ross Quinn, Unite regional officer, 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."

A Rolls-Royce spokesperson told Lancashire Business View: "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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