DOZENS of skilled engineering jobs in Portsmouth have been axed by manufacturing giant Rolls-Royce after the firm announced it would be closing one of its bases in the city.
The British company, which employs tens of thousands of people across the UK, is shutting its marine engineering HQ in Broad Oak, Copnor.
At least 32 people have been made redundant as a result, in a move branded ‘deeply disappointing’ by union officials and city politicians.
Councillor Ben Dowling, Portsmouth City Council’s economic regeneration boss, said the news was a bitter blow for the island’s marine engineering sector.
He said: ‘This is really disappointing news for Portsmouth as a city that is growing in terms of its hi-tech engineering sector. To lose this company and the jobs that go with it is incredibly disappointing.’
While city council leader, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘This is certainly a blow for Portsmouth’s maritime sector. I’m very worried about the closure of Rolls-Royce. It’s very disappointing to hear.’
Production at the facility was stopped just before Christmas after Rolls-Royce revealed it was scrapping the operation.
A whistleblower claimed up to 70 people could be made redundant, however, Rolls-Royce confirmed that only 32 had lost their jobs so far.
It’s the bitter end of a saga which has seen the city hub under threat of closure for the past four years.
The plant was opened in 2014 after Rolls-Royce Marine closed its facility in North Harbour, Cosham.
Before the company shut the site – which made electrical systems for Royal Navy vessels – it announced its closure would lead to 33 job losses, with a further 30 staff being offered a transfer to Bristol.
But later that year, in December, Rolls-Royce said 24 people would leave, while highly-skilled engineering jobs would be saved in the move to the new plant.
However, a spokesman for the company last night confirmed to The News the centre would be axed as it looked to reorganise the business.
Explaining the move, Rolls-Royce said the firm had taken the decision in January last year to ‘consolidate’ its electrical, automation and controls capability at its Bristol site.
But as a knock-on effect of this decision, the manufacture said it would be forced to shut its Portsmouth facility by the end of 2019.
A Rolls-Royce spokesman said: ‘Rolls-Royce has seen a continued reduction in demand for the equipment produced at our Portsmouth facilities, and hence taken the difficult decision to close the site.
‘It’s essential that we maintain our capability to meet our customers’ current and future requirements, but we must always ensure our business remains competitive and has the right scale and skills for today’s market.
‘Rolls-Royce management and the unions are working hard to mitigate the number of redundancies.’
Portsmouth Tory leader, Councillor Donna Jones, was frustrated by the news and said: ‘These are skilled jobs and the loss of dozens of posts is a concern.
‘To grow the Portsmouth economy over the long-term, the city needs to retain and grow the number of highly-skilled graduate jobs
‘So it’s extremely disappointing news that Rolls-Royce are withdrawing a section of their business from Portsmouth.’
Unite Union has been in consultation with members working at the site who are being made redundant, with a spokesman claiming the organisation had fought to secure ‘significantly enhanced’ redundancy packages.
However, Mark Fisher, Unite’s regional officer, said: ‘Unite is deeply disappointed with the loss of skilled jobs in the Portsmouth area, which Unite did everything possible to avoid.
‘Unite is committed to working with all employers to maximise future skilled work in the area.’
Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North MP, said she was worried by the news and was in contact with Rolls-Royce.
She added: ‘This is disappointing, especially given previous understandings. I am in touch with the company and they are working to mitigate the number of redundancies.
‘I hope that for those who are facing that they will be able to swiftly secure other opportunities in the local area, and we will do all we can to retain these highly skilled individuals in the local economy.’
Overall, Rolls-Royce has 55,000 employees worldwide, of whom 26,000 are in the UK, with 15,700 of those in Derby. It employs around 19,400 engineers.