WORKERS at Rolls-Royce, Barnoldswick, went out on strike today (Monday), claiming long term fears for the future of the site.

The group of specialist engineers - members of the Unite union - plan to demonstrate outside the company’s Bankfield site until Friday, action which is expected to affect the planned shutdown of the factory.

Further strike action involving the engineers is scheduled to begin on Monday August 9 and end on Friday, August 20, and will, says the union, cause major disruption at the factory.

A long running strike was held at the factory before Christmas in opposition to plans to scale back production at the site and which workers believed spelt the long-term demise of Rolls-Royce in Barnoldswick.

Following the industrial action an agreement was reached between Rolls-Royce and Unite which guaranteed the future of the factory.

Unite says as part of the deal it was agreed that Barnoldswick would continue with a minimum headcount of 350 workers and a centre of excellence would be built to train the workers of tomorrow.

However following a meeting in mid-May Unite issued a 'failure to agree' notice with Rolls-Royce as local managers made it clear that they were not planning to reach the 350 headcount figure and the offload of work had been accelerated.

Unite says it has been attempting to resolve the matter and seek reassurances about Barnoldswick’s long-term future, without success, and has been left with no option but to take further industrial action.

The union will now ballot for strike action all of the remaining workers in the factory and manufacturing engineering staff who validate work at Barnoldswick and throughout the world. If they vote in favour of industrial action, strikes could begin late this summer.

Unite regional officer Ross Quinn said: “Our members have been forced to take strike action as the long-term viability of Barnoldswick is once again under threat.

“Our members at Barnoldswick are rightly concerned for their futures. They did not take part in nine weeks of strike action for the employer to go back to their original plan in two years time.

“All Unite is seeking is strict guarantees that the January agreement is fully honoured by Rolls-Royce.

“Unite has been seeking to resolve this dispute through negotiation but the company has failed to issue the assurances that workers need.

“If Rolls-Royce provides those guarantees then the strike action can be called off.”

He added: “When Barnoldswick was first under threat, the entire community got behind the campaign and Unite will be rebuilding that coalition in the new battle to save Barnoldswick.”

Ahead of the strike action, Rolls-Royce said it was ‘extremely disappointed’ at the vote for industrial action and said that everyone needed to focus on supporting a plan – agreed between management and trade union representatives – to secure the site and attract new work to preserve jobs.

It said that the entire aviation industry was facing an ‘unprecedented impact from the Covid-19 pandemic which had led to a ‘significant consolidation of work across the company’s site footprint worldwide’.

Rolls-Royce went onto say it was taking action to deliver on its commitments in the Barnoldswick plan, honouring its commitment to no compulsory redundancies and identifying new work for the site.

Speaking earlier this month, 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.”