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Jet engineers rocked by Rolls staff cuts

In modern, services-obsessed Britain, politicians consistently argue that the country must reclaim part of its industrial heritage to balance the economy. So it must have been a bitter blow in Westminster to hear that the UK’s marquee manufacturer, Rolls-Royce, is to cut 2,600 jobs over the next 18 months. The losses will be felt in the company’s aviation division and – although not explicitly stated – are expected to be split between defence and civil aerospace, with the majority of redundancies occurring in the UK.

In modern, services-obsessed Britain, politicians consistently argue that the country must reclaim part of its industrial heritage to balance the economy.

So it must have been a bitter blow in Westminster to hear that the UK’s marquee manufacturer, Rolls-Royce, is to cut 2,600 jobs over the next 18 months.

The losses will be felt in the company’s aviation division and – although not explicitly stated – are expected to be split between defence and civil aerospace, with the majority of redundancies occurring in the UK.

“A large engineering team was required for the development phase of the Trent 1000 and Trent XWB engines. Both these major programmes have now entered their production phase, reducing our engineering requirement,” said Rolls in a statement.

A global dip in defence spending and more productive factories also mean fewer employees are needed in future, Rolls said, but while those factors are important, it is hard to follow the company’s logic regarding the staffing demands of engine programmes.

For instance, from 2009 to 2010 Rolls cut 2,300 people from its civil aerospace division amidst some of the most testing development of the Trent XWB and Trent 1000.

In 2010 a Trent 1000 – the engine due to enter service the following year on the 787 – blew up on a test stand and the Trent XWB had its first test run, two events that were managed despite a more than 10 per cent reduction in the civil aerospace workforce.

More importantly, Rolls’ statement above (November 4) ignores the fact that it has other ongoing engine programmes, such as the Trent 7000 for the A330neo.

That’s only an update of existing technology, some might argue, but Rolls is also working on two next-generation turbofan projects – Advance and UltraFan – the engineering challenges of which it describes in detail in The Engine Yearbook 2015, to be published in the next few weeks.

Thus the unions argue that Rolls is putting short-term cost measures – introduced to ameliorate an expected fall in profit this year and next – ahead of its long-term health and technological development.

At least one outgoing employee won’t be an engineer, however: After 27 years with Rolls-Royce Mark Morris is to be replaced as the group’s chief financial officer by David Smith, currently CFO of the aerospace division.

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