STRIKES have begun again at East Lancashire’s historic Rolls-Royce plant after concerns about the site’s future resurfaced.

The group of 17 specialist engineers at the Barnoldswick factory began striking on Monday over fears that a previous agreement to protect 350 jobs was not going to be met.

Action will now continue until Friday July 23 with further targeted strikes planned for Monday August 9 until Friday August 20.

Unite regional officer Ross Quinn said: “Our members have been forced to take strike action as the long-term viability of Barnoldswick is once again under threat.

“Our members are rightly concerned for their futures.”

The plant had been at the centre of a long running dispute last winter over the firm’s plans to move production of aerospace fans to Singapore, which would have meant the loss of around 350 local jobs.

The resulting strike began in November 2020 and grew increasingly contentious following a so-called “Christmas lockout” which saw the plant closed completely from November 27 until after Christmas and staff taking part in industrial action not guaranteed furlough payments.

The move was described by then Pendle District Council deputy leader David Whipp as “an unfolding tragedy.”

The dispute lasted until a deal was reached in January which both the union leadership and management at the time claimed could save the 350 threatened jobs and transform the plant into a “centre of training and excellence.”

However, Unite says that local managers have made it clear that they are not planning to reach the 350 jobs figure and the offloading of work had been accelerated.

As such a ballot had been completed earlier in July to resume striking.

Mr Quinn said: “They did not take part in nine weeks of strike action for the employer to go back to their original plan in two years time.

“All Unite is seeking is strict guarantees that the January agreement is fully honoured by Rolls-Royce.

“Unite has been seeking to resolve this dispute through negotiation but the company has failed to issue the assurances that workers need.

“If Rolls-Royce provides those guarantees then the strike action can be called off.”

“When Barnoldswick was first under threat, the entire community got behind the campaign and Unite will be rebuilding that coalition in the new battle to save Barnoldswick.”

However, the company says cooperation between management and the union is critical to saving jobs and that it is disappointed to see further strike action take place.

Rolls-Royce director of operations for civil aerospace Sebastian Resch said: “We will continue to engage in meaningful dialogue with trade union representatives to ensure both sides meet their commitments, to invest in the site, and also to deliver the productivity and efficiency improvements that are essential to secure Barnoldswick’s future.”