Strong union response needed against job cuts at Rolls Royce

Rolls-Royce is rumoured to be cutting more jobs in its Derby plant, photo USAF/Rick-Goodfriend/CC

Rolls-Royce is rumoured to be cutting more jobs in its Derby plant, photo USAF/Rick-Goodfriend/CC   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Ian Hunter, Derby Socialist Party

The announcement on 20 May by Rolls Royce to cut 9,000 jobs worldwide will have a severe impact on the company’s UK civil aerospace division.

Although Rolls Royce has not yet stated the specific redundancy numbers for the UK operations, the factories in Derby which employ 9,000 workers, mainly in civil aerospace, are likely to bear the brunt.

The company cites the Covid-19 pandemic crisis and it’s hugely devastating effects on the aviation industry. Plane manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus, Rolls Royce’s main customers, expect the recession in aviation to continue for years to come.

For Derby, the effects on the workers, their families, and the local economy will be shattering. In a statement the Unite union describes Rolls Royce’s actions as “shameful opportunism”.

Steve Turner, Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing said: “…Britain’s taxpayers deserve a more responsible approach to a national emergency” and he criticised the company for running “away from their responsibilities to workers”.

Steve Turner goes on to say: “We will leave no stone unturned in our fight to protect skilled jobs…”.

Unite intends to meet with the company “to convince them to take a different approach” and to ask the government for assistance. The Unite statement calls on the government to “establish a National Council for Recovery and work with us”.

However, Rolls Royce is looking to save £1.3 billion, with proposed redundancies set to meet half the savings target.

Warren East, CEO of Rolls Royce, said that the aim is to make “more than half” of the job cuts this year, as expected airplane production is likely to be a third less than last year.

A large portion of Rolls Royce’s profits come from regular engine-servicing fees, which will be severely hit by grounded air fleets.

East remarked that while many governments are assisting aviation businesses in the short term, Rolls Royce “must respond to market conditions for the medium term”, because “governments cannot replace sustainable customer demand that is simply not there”.

For Derby the current redundancies add to the 3,000 jobs cut from 2018, and there is every possibility the company will come back again for more in the near future.

It is essential there is a strong union response, backed by a mobilised Derby community to fight these job cuts. The union must seize the initiative and demand there are no job cuts, and nationalisation as a real, necessary and viable option.

A serious fighting campaign that could start with a socially distanced protest and that prepares the ground for an occupation if necessary, could have a huge impact and raise the sights of workers.

Nearly 50 years ago, the Tory government of Ted Heath was forced to nationalise Rolls Royce. Socialist public ownership would allow the development of an alternative plan, under democratic workers’ control, of the production of socially-useful products and services, to shift the emphasis from making for profit to making for need.

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 22 May 2020 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.