Unite, the UK’s leading union, has called on Rolls-Royce to heed the urging of the chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak MP and enter into meaningful consultations and negotiations to preserve the long-term viability of its Barnoldswick factory.

Unite revealed how Rolls-Royce are locking out its workforce for three weeks before Christmas in response to ongoing targeted strike action and it is transferring the work currently being undertaken at Barnoldswick around the globe.

Rolls-Royce concerns

As a consequence of Unite’s revelations, and in the debate following the chancellor’s spending review today (Wednesday 25 November), Stockport MP Navendu Mishra asked the chancellor: “Taxpayer support for British businesses and jobs during this pandemic has been a lifeline for many. But today we hear that Rolls-Royce, which has benefited handsomely from the public purse whilst moving highly skilled jobs abroad, intends to shutdown its historic Barnoldswick site until after Christmas and offshore the work to Japan, Singapore and Spain, in a clear attempt to break the current industrial action there.

 “Does the chancellor agree that these kind of bully boy strike busting tactics are utterly unacceptable and that all financial support must be immediately withdrawn until Rolls-Royce comes to its senses, ends its lockout and gets back to the table with the Unite union to resolve this dispute.”

Companies work constructively

Responding chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “I know the aerospace industry has been suffering a particularly difficult time over the past few months and that has impacted businesses like Rolls and others up and down the supply chain.

 “We have put some measures in place to help airports and indeed get people flying again and enjoy conversations with specific companies.

 “But I’d urge all companies to work constructively with their workforces through what is a difficult period and hopefully find resolution. Collectively we are all trying to protect jobs, but it is of course a very challenging set of circumstances.”

Prime Minister pressed

Mr Sunak’s response echoes those of the prime minister Boris Johnson, who was also asked about Rolls-Royce and its offshoring plans by Jon Trickett MP during prime minister’s question time and replied: “We are keen to work with Rolls-Royce to ensure that that company has a long-term future as a great, great British company. He makes an excellent point, and I can assure him that the Government are on it.”

Offshoring questions 

Unite regional officer Ross Quinn said: “It is time for Rolls-Royce to wake up and smell the coffee.

"When the two most senior politicians in the UK raise concerns about Rolls-Royce’s offshoring intentions it must accept that there is a real issue.

 “Unite’s members at Barnoldswick are dedicated to their factory and take huge pride work in their work. Strike action was taken as an absolute last resort because the company was not prepared to negotiate.

“Unite is fully prepared to accept the chancellor’s guidance and enter into consultation to preserve the long term future of Barnoldswick, we hope that Rolls-Royce is too."


Notes to editors:

Unite members have been undertaking targeted strike action since 6 November, which was due to end on 24 December, in a campaign to secure the future of the historic factory, the cradle of the jet engine. The campaign has become known as the ‘Battle for Barnoldswick’.

Staff were informed this week the site would close for an extended Christmas shutdown and workers would not return until after Christmas. They were also informed that work currently undertaken at Barnoldswick will be immediately transferred to Japan, Singapore and Spain.

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 over 70 years, potentially unviable.

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.

Since the announcement, Unite has been campaigning to have the decision to offshore the jet engine blade work reversed or alternatively secure a commitment that similar work would be transferred to the site.

 During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

Email: [email protected]

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.