Rolls-Royce announces temporary closure of Barnoldswick site

Rolls-Royce has announced it will close its Barnoldswick plant in Lancashire from this Friday, November 27, until after Christmas.

It will offshore work from the site to plants in Japan, Singapore and Spain.

Staff were told in a briefing that the factory was to close “on the basis of health and safety”.

The plant is at the centre of ongoing industrial action by Unite the Union over plans to axe 350 jobs and offshore some of its workload to Singapore.

Unite is involved in a programme of industrial action up to Christmas Eve in a bid to secure the site’s future, and Unite officials have described the decision to shut down production at the factory, known as the cradle of the jet engine, as an act of “industrial self-mutilation”.

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% of their pay during this time.

The union said the ‘Rolls-Royce furlough’ is 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% 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 more than 70 years, potentially unviable.

The union says 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.

It added that Rolls-Royce’s actions are especially controversial as it is currently in the process of securing around £1bn support from the Government, as part of a £5bn refinancing scheme, to contend with the global slowdown in the aerospace sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unite national officer for aerospace, Rhys McCarthy, said: “Rolls-Royce actions are totally unacceptable. At a time when they should be entering into negotiations, they have instead locked workers out and moved work abroad.

“It is vitally important that the Government and MPs make it entirely clear to Rolls-Royce that its actions are deplorable and should be reversed immediately.

“Since Rolls-Royce first announced its intentions, Unite has been crystal clear that it was fully prepared to negotiate to secure the future of Barnoldswick and this still remains the case.”

A Rolls-Royce spokesperson 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% 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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