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Coronavirus: Rolls-Royce closes factory as jobs cull continues

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·3-min read
The Rolls Royce XWB engine assembly line at the Rolls-Royce's aero engine factory in Derby.
The Rolls Royce XWB engine assembly line at the Rolls-Royce's aero engine factory in Derby. Photo: PA

Rolls-Royce has announced plans to close one of its UK factories in Nottinghamshire, as a drastic cost-cutting drive continues at the struggling plane engine maker.

The company (RR.L) has been heavily hit by the decline of air travel during the coronavirus crisis, warning it will be years before demand recovers in the commercial aerospace sector. Earnings are based on the hours its engines fly.

Rolls-Royce announced plans to slash 9,000 jobs worldwide in May and all of its civil aerospace sites were put under review, as part of a drive to save £1.3bn ($1.7bn) a year.

Now Rolls-Royce has confirmed a site in Annesley, Nottinghamshire, will shut for good by 2023. The site makes components for its Trent and Pearl engines. Around 120 workers will be offered the chance to transfer to its bigger site in Derby, around 20 miles away.

The manufacturing of engine blades for newer Trent engines will also stop by 2023 at its Bankfield site in Barnoldswick, Lancashire, which was one of the world’s first and most successful factories to make modern turbo-jets. Local Conservative MP Andrew Stephenson told the Burnley Express newspaper it would be “devastating,” with around 350 workers affected.

The nearby Ghyll Brow plant could also face closure, with work moved to Bankfield. But manufacturing for older engines, new product development and technical support work will continue in the former mill town.

READ MORE: Rolls-Royce job cuts a ‘body blow’ to town where turbo-jets born

A spokesperson confirmed 2,400 employees will have left the company by the end of August through voluntary redundancy programmes.

Around 200 workers have moved from civil aerospace to defence teams, in a bid to mitigate the number of job losses needed. But up to 250 workers could still face compulsory redundancy this year.

Andrew Baron, 55, was one of the workers who volunteered to leave a Rolls-Royce site in Barnoldswick, Lancashire. He told Yahoo Finance UK earlier this year he did not expect the company to find “anywhere near enough voluntary redundancies,” saying many older workers had left in previous rounds of job cuts.

“I’ll have a reasonable pension pot and no mortgage. I’d feel awful if I didn’t and one of the young lads with families got made redundant,” he said at the time.

READ MORE: BMW to cut 400 jobs at Oxford Mini plant

A company spokesperson said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has created a historic shock in civil aviation which will take several years to recover. Demand for our Civil Aerospace products and services has fallen significantly and we’ve had to take difficult, but necessary decisions to position ourselves for the future.

“Today we have told our employees that we are proposing to close some of our sites, and some will see significant reductions in workload. We are now consulting with trade unions and their regional equivalents and will look at all options to mitigate the impact on our people.

“Today’s news will be very worrying for our colleagues, and our number one priority is to provide support to them and their families.”

It comes on a grim day for UK manufacturing, with cutbacks also announced by carmaker BMW on Wednesday.

The German carmaker, also owner of the Rolls-Royce car brand since 1998, announced around 400 agency workers at its Mini plant in Oxford would lose their jobs.