Rolls Royce workers in Barnoldswick have had huge levels of support for their struggle against offshoring and job cuts, reports Chris Neville
Today marks day one of a three-week-long strike for the Rolls Royce workers in Barnoldswick, Lancashire. Coming on the back of a 94% yes vote in the ballot, the Rolls Royce workers are taking a stand against the company breaking their guarantee not to offshore jobs from the site to Singapore.
The high-profile dispute has received widespread support and messages of solidarity from over the country. Here in the North West, many Labour MPs have backed the strike and it's had coverage on local TV and radio news.
Barnoldswick is a town with a rich industrial history and indeed a rich history of industrial disputes. The Silent Night bed and mattress factory in Barnoldswick, along with its sister site in nearby Sutton-in-Craven was the site of Britain's longest-running strike, lasting for 19 months between 1985 and 1987.
Within the local community, there is a feeling of overwhelming support for the strike. The Rolls Royce site is one of the town's biggest employers which means that many residents will have friends or family who work there and potentially face redundancy as a result of the offshoring.
Mark Porter, Unite Convenor, talked about the site's historic role as the birthplace as the jet engine and the importance that played in the development of Rolls Royce as a company.
"There has been absolutely fantastic support from across the community for this campaign. Everybody knows that Rolls-Royce is Barnoldswick and Barnoldswick is Rolls-Royce.
"The RB Engine stands for 'Rolls-Royce Barnoldswick'. This is the birthplace of the jet engine. This is where it all started. If not for this facility, Rolls-Royce would not exist in its current format that it exists today, it's that simple"
Picketing in the context of Covid has affected the ability of others to go and show their support, added Mark:
"We've had immense support from across Lancashire and across the country. We've had offers from thousands to turn up here today to support our campaign. But sadly, as we all know, there is a global pandemic going on and, in accordance with the rules, we've had to politely decline that support."
He also encouraged people to join an upcoming virtual picket line and follow the hashtag #battleforbarnoldswick. Mark added that any financial donations received would be passed on to local foodbanks to combat the high levels of child poverty locally.