On the Picket Line

Rolls-Royce jet engine workers strike to defend their jobs

By Ólöf Andra Proppé
and Hugo Wils
December 28, 2020

BARNOLDSWICK, England — “They have given us no choice but to fight,” Dennis Constable said Dec. 5 at the end of a rally and car caravan organized by Rolls-Royce jet engine workers and their union, Unite, in support of their strike here to stop job cuts. Constable is a shop floor worker at the factory here and Unite branch secretary.

People came from across Northwest England. Hundreds gathered in the parking lot of a shopping center to join the action. The cars went through the towns of Burnley, Nelson and Colne, ending with a rally near the factory.

The strike began Nov. 6 with a section of the workforce the union considered key for production. The company then placed the remaining workers on a furlough. Rolls-Royce has announced the layoff of 140 workers, in addition to cutting 350 jobs, which triggered the strike action.

Mark Porter, the Unite union convener at the factory, told the Militant that strikers had received a number of messages of solidarity, including from IG Metall union in Germany and unions in Australia and the U.S.

“This is my first time visiting a picket line,” Jake Wyatt, a rail worker and member of the RMT trade union, told strikers. He came with some co-workers. “It’s good to see workers take a stand like this, to see what the union can do.”

Garry Gallagher, an ambulance support worker in Wigan who has visited the picket line a number of times, pointed out how important it is to let the striking workers “know there are people out there that do support their struggle, that their fight is for all of us and for our future.”

Some 314,000 people in the country lost their jobs from July to September. A government scheme to pay 80% of furloughed workers’ wages has been extended through March 2021, partly masking the scope of the crisis.

“We say to the community: Today this is our struggle, tomorrow it’s yours,” Porter said.

Messages of solidarity can be sent to ross.quinn@unitetheunion.org.