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From The Socialist newspaper, 10 June 2020

Workers' union and campaign group fights Derby Rolls-Royce job cuts

photo USAF/Rick-Goodfriend/CC

photo USAF/Rick-Goodfriend/CC   (Click to enlarge)

Ian Hunter, Derby Socialist Party

Rolls-Royce announced the figures for proposed redundancies at 11 sites in the aerospace division on 3 June. 3,000 redundancies are planned across the UK sites with 1,500 of them in Derby. There is a strong possibility of more redundancies to follow. Applications for voluntary redundancy will be open to all, with the first workers expected to leave in mid-July.

Rolls-Royce has stated that these job cuts are necessary and inevitable in light of the current severe recession in the aviation industry which continues to deepen. The job cuts are a part of a long-term plan, adding to other cuts as recently as 2018. This much has become obvious from any reading of union newsletters sent out to members at Rolls-Royce aerospace over the last two months demonstrates. From the outset the company has been determined to steamroller these redundancies through, in addition to ignoring previous collective agreements and serving notice of changes to conditions of severance pay, and their imposition without consultation.

The Unite union has called for the government to provide investment at levels "last seen in the postwar period", with a focus on new, environmentally-friendly technologies. At the same time Rolls-Royce and Airbus have now cancelled their joint 'E-Fan-X programme' for developing electric-powered aircraft.

Rhys McCarthy, Unite national officer for aerospace, said: "The UK needs to develop a survival and recovery strategy that includes an aircraft scrappage scheme so that more environmentally-friendly aircraft, wings and engines that the UK produces can be brought into service by airlines."

Although the union has made suggestions about 'diversification' in talks with Rolls-Royce, no firm discussion on the development of more socially-useful products to utilise the skills and expertise of the workers has yet materialised.

Before the public announcement of the redundancies, there was an emergency debate on the aviation industry in the House of Commons. The Hansard report of the debate reveals no mention of Rolls-Royce and no interventions from either of Derby's MP's (one Labour, one Tory). In fact the whole debate largely concentrated on the actions of British Airways in taking government support funds yet still sacking thousands of workers, and their intention to recruit 30,000 workers on worse conditions.

The recently-launched 'Derby supports Rolls-Royce workers' campaign group, in which Socialist Party members are active, organised a socially-distant protest outside Derby Council House on 5 June. The protest received general public support and local media coverage. However, while slogans and chants of 'Save Derby jobs' are important, a strongly-focused continued campaign to present alternatives, such as an alternative production plan and nationalisation, is essential, in addition to efforts and actions to mobilise the community to oppose Rolls-Royce's plans.

On 9 June Derby Socialist Party branch will host a public meeting via Zoom on the Rolls-Royce issue, with a shop steward from the plant among the speakers. The struggle to preserve employment for these workers via an alternative plan must continue.

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