Rolls Royce and Optare

Unite members are currently involved in two crucial battles at the Rolls-Royce plant in Barnoldswick, Lancashire and the Optare bus manufacturers in Leeds.

Rolls-Royce bosses announced in August that they would be offshoring production of the Trent Engine blades, currently manufactured at the Barnoldswick plant to Singapore.

The move would see 350 workers lose their jobs, the potential closure of the factory and the further threats to the jobs of workers in the supply chain.  And this is a company that sought £1 billion in financial support from the Government.

Unite members voted 94% for a strike to stop the job losses. 

They began a 3 week strike last Friday 6 November that was due to end on 27 November – but the action will now continue until Christmas Eve.

National officer Ross Quinn told the local press 
“This dispute is not just about maintaining the viability of the Rolls-Royce factory in Barnoldswick, it is about the future prosperity of the local community.”

Workers at bus manufacturer Optare in Leeds have been taking strike action from last month.  They have been staging 48-hour strikes every week to win a pay rise that was pledged but never implemented by the company last year.  Optare can hardly plead poverty. The company is owned by the billionaire Hinduja brothers Srichand, Gopichand and Prakash, the second richest people in the UK.
Despite Unite pickets at Optare wearing masks, socially distancing and regularly using hand sanitiser, last week a police officer ordered them to stop picketing quoting new coronavirus legislation.Unite made legal representations that have been successful so the right to picket has been maintained. The stakes are high, the bosses are accommodating temporary workers in hotels and bussing them in to try and break the strike. But next week, the strike will escalate to four days a week and workers believe that this will have a major impact. 

It is clear that just as with the economic crash in 2008, the Tories and the bosses are intent on making us pay for growing pandemic and economic crises.  These strikes are crucial because if they win it shows that workers don’t have to meekly accept being thrown on the scrapheap or cuts to their pay and benefits.  But the workers at these factories could also be the key to tackling another crisis – that of the ongoing climate catastrophe.  Optare workers specialise in making electric buses. Barnoldswick workers specialise in making blades for aircraft engines – but there’s no reason why they can’t make blades for wind turbines. 

Raise solidarity for these strikes in your branch and committee meetings. Get in touch to invite a speaker or if your branch can make donations.

Send messages of solidarity to:

Rolls-Royce Barnoldswick – facebook.com/UniteNorthWest/  and tweet to @Unite_NorthWest using #BattleForBarnoldswick and #SaveOurSite hashtags

Optare Richard.bedford@unitetheunion.org

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