Rolls-Royce asked to step back from job cuts – while CEO blasted for body language

Unions have reacted with anger to Rolls-Royce’s plans to cut 9,000 jobs – while the firm’s boss has prompted derision over his performance during an interview on BBC Breakfast yesterday morning (20 May).

The Derby-based manufacturer said yesterday that it was axing the roles due to falling demand from the civil aviation industry and in order to save £1.3bn a year.

Rolls said it wouldn’t be drawn on how many UK jobs would go, but the Unite union claims that 3,375 of them will be domestically based.

The union has called the Rolls-Royce’s move “shameful opportunism”.

Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing Steve Turner said: “The news that Rolls Royce is preparing to throw thousands of skilled, loyal, world class workers, their families and communities under the bus during the worst public health crisis since 1918 is shameful opportunism.

“This company has accepted public money to furlough thousands of workers. Unite and Britain’s taxpayers deserve a more responsible approach to a national emergency. We call upon Rolls Royce to step back from the brink and work with us on a better way through this crisis.”

Meanwhile, after Rolls-Royce CEO appears on breakfast TV yesterday morning, he was subjected to a mixture of ridicule and anger on Twitter over his performance.

East was accused of laughing while talking about the job cuts, while others claimed he seemed distracted.

The leader of Derbyshire County Council has pledged to work with partners to support Rolls-Royce workers

Councillor Barry Lewis said: “This is obviously a very worrying time for Rolls-Royce staff. The coronavirus pandemic is having a terrible impact in every corner of the globe and is affecting many industries including aviation in which Rolls-Royce is a leader.

“We don’t know how many jobs at the Derby site will be cut but once the details become clear we’ll work closely with the company and our partners as and when needed to make sure affected employees have access to the right advice and benefits.

“We will do everything we can to support local people in what is an unprecedented situation.”

Meanwhile, Russ Mould, analyst at AJ Bell, said Rolls was at the “sharp end of the crisis”, and warned that it might not be easy to take highly-skilled staff back on during a recovery.

Mould added: “While job cuts had been widely trailed at Rolls-Royce, the decision to lay off more than 15% of its global workforce still carries weight and highlights the damage coronavirus is doing to the company.

“Rolls is at the sharp end of the crisis given the importance of civil aerospace work to the business. A model built on maintenance and spares and repairs contracts on an installed base of engines doesn’t work when said engines are not in use and orders for the planes which take its engines have collapsed.

“Cutting that number of staff in itself will be a big effort, costing hundreds of millions of pounds and could come with political complications given most of its aerospace activities are based in the UK.

“The long-term implications of such lay-offs should not be underestimated either. If or when the aviation sector takes flight once more, Rolls might need to recruit and train a whole raft of new people, affecting the pace of its own recovery.

“Rolls doesn’t have the luxury of looking too far ahead; for now it simply needs to keep itself in the air while it tries to navigate extreme market turbulence.

“Due to a significant crossover in the skills and expertise required, many companies operate across the spectrum of defence and commercial aerospace and it sounds like Rolls will try and shift some of its aerospace capacity towards defence – a part of the group which is so far unaffected by the pandemic.”