ROLLS-ROYCE has announced record sales of £6.3 billion and profits before tax up by nine per cent to £475 million.

It will come as scant consolation for the 295 employees at the company's two Barnoldswick plants whose jobs have been lost or hang in the balance as part of an ongoing cost reduction.

But Rolls-Royce claims it is that action that has cushioned the terrible blow of September 11 and helped the company to weather the storm.

It was on October 19 last year that Rolls-Royce announced it would shed 5,000 jobs worldwide as a result of the global downturn in aerospace caused by the terrorist attacks, with 3,800 of them in the UK. But it was almost a month before a site-by-site breakdown of the figures was revealed.

It was worse than anyone at Barnoldswick had feared, with 295 jobs to be axed - more than a quarter of the 1,080 workforce. In addition, the company would look at closing its Ghyll Brow site altogether and consolidating its manufacturing operations at Bankfield.

Negotiation between union officials and management resulted in a stay of execution for 45 jobs, with workers voting to take a cut in hours and pay to save those positions. That situation is due for review in September, when it is hoped the jobs can be saved permanently.

The deadline for voluntary redundancy has now passed and the target for job losses from the shopfloor was met, with slightly more volunteers than places available. However, one Rolls-Royce employee, who asked not to be named, said many of the "volunteers" had only "jumped before they were pushed" after being told their jobs were earmarked for the axe.

Targets for redundancies have not yet been met and around 10 to 15 jobs still hang in the balance, with a decision expected by the end of this month.

There is also serious concern over the future of the Fast Response Unit at the Bankfield site. Employing around 60 people, it manufactures components needed in a hurry by divisions of Rolls-Royce around the world. Again, a decision on the future of the unit is expected by the end of this month.

Union convenor for the Rolls-Royce Barnoldswick sites, John Boardman, said most people were too preoccupied with the future of their own jobs to pay much heed to the company's results.

There was some feeling that the company has used September 11 to justify job cuts when the results showed the true picture was not as bad as that painted. On the other hand, there was relief the company was doing well, as that could safeguard against further job losses.

"People are still very worried about their jobs and we should know more by the end of March," said Mr Boardman.

In its preliminary results for the year ended December 31, 2001, Rolls-Royce announced record sales, up by eight per cent to £6.3 billion; a record order intake of £8.7 billion; a record year-end order book, standing at £14.4 billion; profit before tax up by nine per cent to £475 million and earnings per share up by four per cent to 20.20p.