The union representing the majority of Rolls-Royce workers in the UK, the MSF, has threatened to ballot its members over strike action unless the company changes its stance on plans to sack some 2,000 workers.

Union officials said the UK engineering group had refused to discuss the planned job losses and accused management of trying to disguise the number of positions under threat.

The MSF said there were no volunteers left to take redundancy, following a rolling programme to cut staff levels by some 10 per cent annually over the past decade.

In 1999 the company shed 1,600 jobs.

MSF national secretary John Wall said: “Rolls-Royce is a world-class aerospace manufacturer with a reputation to match the quality of its product . . . Compulsory redundancies are an unusual way of rewarding a successful workforce.”The union has called mass meetings next Tuesday where up to 1,000 jobs are under threat, and Nottingham next Tuesday.

A spokesman for Rolls-Royce, which employs 49,600 people around the world, would not confirm the number of planned job cuts but insisted consultations with the workforce continued.