UNION bosses are seeking assurances on jobs in East Lancashire after Rolls Royce announced a huge fall in profits and 6,000 redundancies.

The aero-engine maker, which employs 1,100 people in East Lancashire, saw profits slump by 50 per cent.

Pre-tax profits have nose-dived from £360 million in 1999 to £166 million in 2000 despite a 27 per cent increase in sales to £5,864 million.

Chief executive John Rose confirmed that up to 6,000 jobs could be lost throughout the group over the next three years. Around 2,000 jobs are expected to be axed this year from its national work-force of 43,700, mostly at its marine division in Coventry.

But for the Rolls-Royce workers at Barnoldswick and the thousands of other East Lancashire workers who are dependent on the site, there was encouraging news.

The civil aerospace division, of which Barnoldswick is a part, remains the powerhouse of the company and chairman Sir Ralph Robins said a record 1,091 engines had been delivered as the company increased its market share.

But AEU works convenor at Barnoldswick, John Boardman, said news of the job losses was a cause for concern and the union would be seeking clarification from the management.

He said: "The workload this year has increased by about 15 per cent and there is a limit to how much more efficient you can become."

The Barnoldswick plant supplies wide-chord fan blades for the Trent family of engines which had been sold to airlines such as Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines and Quantas. It also manufactures front bearing housings. A Rolls-Royce spokesman said the job cuts were only proposed and that it hoped to come to an agreement with workers which could see many relocated.