Unite Scotland has today (22 October) called for immediate action to support highly-skilled aerospace engineering workers following more than 700 jobs being lost at Rolls Royce’s Inchinnan plant. The research was conducted in September-October with 100 survey responses giving a statistically significant sample size. 

An overwhelming majority of those surveyed reported their preference was to remain in manufacturing.  The research finds that taking voluntary severance was for many a financial decision forced on them by the decision of Rolls Royce to effectively close down the Inchinnan plant. A significant minority reported that they would like to work in the renewable energy sector, specifically wind turbines. However, despite their high level of skill the workers recognised that they may need retraining in new skills, which would require further qualifications and certification to shift into the renewables sector.   

  • Almost two-thirds (63.5%) of those who had left Rolls-Royce reported that they were out of work.

  • Of those who had left and secured employment elsewhere only 41% reported that they were using – or extending – their full range of skills. This suggests that for the majority leaving Rolls Royce their future employment will not utilise their skills and experience.

  • Just over half reported that they were ‘fearful’ and just 21% ‘hopeful’ for their future employment prospects.

The research suggests two clear conclusions: (1) that the Rolls Royce job losses are not being absorbed by the Scottish aerospace sector as these job losses risk becoming a major loss to the sector as a whole, and (2) for the majority any jobs in manufacturing are less likely to utilise their full range of skills and experience. Importantly, the research draws attention to the ‘significant barriers’ to ex-Rolls Royce personnel transferring into the renewables sector. 
In July, Unite commissioned a report produced by the nation’s leading economic research institute Strathclyde University’s Fraser of Allander Institute (FAI) following a spate of redundancy consultations and voluntary severance schemes at Rolls Royce (Inchinnan), GE Caledonian, Spirit Aerosystems and Wyman Gordon.  The FAI estimated that the total impact of the 1,225 proposed job losses at these companies including spill-over effects is associated with a £185m loss in Gross Value Added and a decrease in employment of 2,530 across the Scottish economy. 

Pat Rafferty, Unite Scottish Secretary, said: "Rolls Royce engineers are widely recognised to be highly skilled, highly experienced and amongst the most outstanding engineering workforces in the UK. What this new research has discovered is that the vast majority of Rolls Royce workers who have left Inchinnan remain out of work with most of them remaining fearful for their future employment prospects. Importantly, there is a desire by those who have left Rolls Royce to move into the renewables sector. However, this requires two fundamental elements which is jobs actually being created in the renewables sector in particular through the manufacturing of wind turbines, and skills transition support. On these specific issues the Scottish Government’s record has been absolutely abject and they need to urgently intervene to provide concrete support for workers who have lost their jobs. If they do not then this research illustrates that there is a real danger these crucial skills will be lost forever."

Professor Alan McKinlay added: "Many of the people who used to be employed by Rolls Royce have family connections and roots in West Central Scotland. Some of them are mobile and may seek work elsewhere in the UK or overseas but the majority are faced with limited options for finding work within a reasonable distance of home. The decision of Rolls Royce, with very limited warning, has forced them to seek alternative employment in the worst economic crisis of the last forty years. If the specialist capability of this workforce is lost and people are obliged to pick up work wherever they can find, if indeed they can, then Scotland’s capacity in the highly skilled engineering sector will be much reduced and might never recover."