City blow after firm announces plans to offload 33 workers

Rolls Royce Electrical Systems in Cosham
Rolls Royce Electrical Systems in Cosham
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PORTSMOUTH’S maritime economy has been dealt a fresh blow after a company manufacturing Royal Navy equipment announced plans to close its city plant.

The marine arm of Rolls-Royce, in Northarbour Road, Cosham, could close by the end of the year.

The company says a drop in workload due to ‘challenging market conditions’ in the defence sector is to blame.

It means 33 manufacturing jobs will be axed when existing contracts are finished, and 30 engineers could be moved to Bristol.

It comes after BAE Systems announced plans to move its shipbuilding out of Portsmouth to the Clyde, in Scotland – a move that’s left nearly 1,000 jobs at risk.

Rolls-Royce said the defence giant’s decision hasn’t influenced its proposal, saying it needs to ‘improve its competitiveness’ in what is an extremely tough, global market. It wants to try to redeploy workers elsewhere.

John Ferrett, negotiations officer for the Prospect Union, which represents a third of the workforce, said the government needs to step in, and called for Minister for Portsmouth Michael Fallon to take action.

‘The decision to close the factory in Cosham is a bitter blow, not least given the huge loss of jobs that is also taking place as a result of the shipbuilding closure,’ he said.

‘There is now a compelling case for the government to intervene and give substance to its claim that Portsmouth is to become a centre of maritime excellence. Appointing a Minister for Portsmouth is meaningless if the only result is warm words and no action.’

The site manufactures electrical equipment for navy ships and has provided components for the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, which are almost completion.

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘Clearly, it’s very disappointing. We will need to retain skills, because with more naval ships due to be based here, there will be a need to service them and keep them going.’

Michel Toutant, chief operations officer of Rolls-Royce Marine, said: ‘Our customers are responding to an environment of reduced defence budgets and are demanding greater efficiencies. We need to ensure our business remains competitive and has the right scale for today’s market and workload.

‘It is never an easy decision to propose reductions in our workforce, but it is a sign of the increasingly competitive market in which we operate that such actions are necessary.’