HUNDREDS of aerospace workers are fearing for their jobs as business and political leaders expressed concern at the impact of redundancies on the local economy.

Rolls-Royce, which employs 730 at its two plants in Barnoldswick, has confirmed it is considering staff cuts worldwide because of coronavirus.

Up to 8,000 job losses out of a global workforce of 52,000 and 23,300 in the UK are understood to be on the cards.

The news alarmed politicians and senior business figures as the East Lancashire aerospace supply chain employs thousands in dozens of companies.

Rolls-Royce, which has two Barnoldswick fan-blade plants Bankfield and Ghyll Brow, promised details of job cuts later this month but refused to confirm the 8,000 figure.

Miranda Barker, chief executive of the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said: “Big job losses at Rolls-Royce Barnoldswick would be a major concern with a huge impact on the economy of East Lancashire, the aerospace industry supply chain and its skilled jobs.

“Aerospace is a key part of the East Lancashire economy. Government must intervene to save jobs and vital skills.”

Dennis Mendoros, former chairman of the North-West Aerospace Alliance and founder of Kelbrook’s Euravia Engineering, said: “Rolls-Royce is a prime contractor for many smaller aerospace firms across East Lancashire. Significant job losses there would have a major negative impact on them and the whole East Lancashire economy.”

Cllr Mohammed Iqbal, leader of Pendle Council, said: “I am obviously very concerned about its impact for the borough.

“But it’s not just Rolls-Royce and Barnoldswick. Any job losses there will have a big effect on the whole aerospace supply chain across East Lancashire and the area’s economy and jobs.

“The government needs to step up and start a dialogue with key employers about protecting jobs and skills for the future.

“I shall be writing to Rolls-Royce asking them to minimise redundancies at Barnoldswick.”

Pendle MP and Foreign Office minister Andrew Stephenson said: “I’m deeply concerned at reports that Rolls-Royce is considering substantial job cuts due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This will be a very worrying time for their employees.

“I am keen to work with Rolls-Royce and any Pendle business to get them the support they need to get through this difficult period and to recover strongly. The company have given me no indication their long-term commitment to Barnoldswick is at stake.”

A Rolls-Royce spokesman said: “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented.

“We have taken swift action to increase our liquidity, dramatically reduce our spending in 2020, and strengthen our resilience in these exceptionally challenging times. But we will need to take further action. We have promised to give our people further details of the impact of the current situation on the size of our workforce before the end of this month.”

Cllr Phil Riley, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s growth boss, said: “Everybody realises that there will be significant negative economic impacts from the coronavirus pandemic. This is not a surprise given what has happened to the aviation industry.

“Major job losses at Barnoldswick and hits effect on skills and the aerospace supply chain in East Lancashire would be a significant concern.”

David Whipp, county and Pendle district councillor for Barnoldswick, said: “Rolls-Royce and other aerospace companies are the bedrock of high-tech industry and a crucial economic engine in our area. It’s vital to have rescue plans in place at national and local level to deal with the fallout from the crisis. Many local families will be fearful of their long-term livelihoods.”

Steve Turner, Unite’s assistant general secretary for manufacturing, said: “We say to Rolls-Royce: step back from drastic, short-term responses and work with us to shape a positive future for a world class business, our highly skilled workforce and our communities."

“British manufacturing requires exactly the sort of research and development, design and engineering expertise possessed by the workforce at Rolls-Royce.

“Covid-19 has exposed dangerous weaknesses in the resilience of UK manufacturing. Now is the time for an industrial strategy to put Britain back to work and to put our engineering excellence and manufacturing capabilities centre stage.”