Unite members working at the Rolls-Royce factory in Barnoldswick, Lancashire had previously returned a 94% vote in favour of industrial action.
Workers at Rolls-Royce’s historic factory in Barnoldswick will begin three weeks of targeted strike action next month, as part of a wider campaign led by Unite to preserve the viability of the factory.
Rolls-Royce announced in August that it was planning to move the production of its Trent Engine blades away from the Barnoldswick facility to a factory in Singapore – with the loss of 350 jobs at the Lancashire factory.
Unite believes that this move could render the Barnoldswick factory – which the company has owned since 1943 and is seen as the ‘cradle of the jet engine’ – as potentially unviable.
Following a vote of Unite members earlier this month, the union has announced that targeted strike action will begin on Friday 6 November at 06:30 and end on Friday 27 November at 19:00. The union had previously delayed issuing strike dates to give Rolls-Royce a chance to cancel its offshoring plans or to take action to ensure that Barnoldswick remains viable by introducing similar work levels and settling disputes over compulsory redundancies. However, Unite says no such commitments have been forthcoming from Rolls-Royce so has moved forward with their plans for targeted strike action.
Since the initial announcement from Rolls-Royce that it was planning on moving operations to Singapore there has been a huge outpouring of opposition from the local community. Local MP MP Andrew Stephenson said it was “devastating” after the firm had given “reassurances after reassurances” the site in Asia would not affect production in Lancashire, while the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce said the decision was “really worrying”.
Unite regional officer Ross Quinn accused Rolls-Royce of “industrial vandalism” and promised that the trade union will not allow the company to destroy the viability of the Barnoldswick site “without a huge fight”. He said: “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.
“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.”
The announcement of the industrial action comes at a time when Rolls-Royce is in the process of seeking to secure £5 billion in additional investment through a £2 billion rights issue, the issuing of £2 billion of bonds and £1 billion of support from the UK government – something Unite national officer Rhys McCarthy labelled as “unacceptable”.
Mr McCarthy said: “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 £1 billion 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.”