Rolls-Royce condemns industrial action at troubled Lancashire site

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Workers at a Lancashire Rolls-Royce factory have voted for industrial action, six months after accepting a peace deal from management.

The agreement, in January, saved 350 jobs and guaranteed the future of the Barnoldswick plant after moves to offshore some of its production to Singapore.

Now, bosses say they are “extremely disappointed” at a vote for industrial action made by 17 members of Unite The Union at the site.

Rolls-Royce said the vote comes at a time when everyone at Barnoldswick needs to focus on supporting a plan – agreed between management and trade union representatives – to secure the site and attract new work to preserve jobs.

This plan requires both co-operation and determination from everyone on site if it is to succeed, a company statement said.

It added: “Rolls-Royce, like the entire aviation industry, is facing an unprecedented impact from the COVID-19 pandemic. That has led to a significant consolidation of work across the company’s site footprint worldwide – with facilities already closed (US – turbine components) or assembly and engine test operations discontinued (Singapore).

“We are already taking action to deliver on our commitments in the Barnoldswick plan, honouring our commitment to no compulsory redundancies and identifying new work for the site.”

The company said it is retaining the Fabricated Structures Facility at its Bankfield site – guaranteeing its future until 2031 to ensure the site has retained footprint for any new work, and has now confirmed that parts for Rolls-Royce’s technology demonstrator programme for its next generation of gas turbine, UltraFan, will be completed there.

Plans are also progressing to install capability for a new fan blade servicing and repair capacity, requiring more than £1m in investment.

The site’s training centre location is now confirmed, with plans to both develop employee skills and offer training, and Rolls-Royce said it is working with a consortium of training providers and accrediting bodies to develop employees for future work opportunities.

In addition, a Product Development and Technical Centre will focus on developing new components, engineering methods and technologies, drawing on the site’s engineering skills.

Sebastian Resch, Rolls-Royce director of operations – civil aerospace, said: “This vote is extremely disappointing, given the commitments given by both the company and union representatives to develop a plan that will preserve Barnoldswick through the devastating industrial impact of COVID-19.

“We will continue to engage in meaningful dialogue with trade union representatives to ensure both sides meet their commitments – to invest in the site, and also to deliver the productivity and efficiency improvements that are essential to secure Barnoldswick’s future.” understands Unite’s action is over relocation of some work, and claims of insufficient progress on a ‘failure to agree’ process.

Unite national officer for aerospace, Rhys McCarthy, said: “Unite has secured a meeting with Rolls-Royce chief executive officer Warren East later this month.

“It is hoped that this meeting will resolve the concerns that our members have about the future of the Barnoldswick factory.”