Britain’s embattled manufacturing industry was dealt a fresh blow this morning as Wrightbus entered administration, putting nearly 5,000 jobs at risk.
The company, which is famous for building the so-called Boris bus Routemaster model in London, had been suffering from cash flow shortages, and had been looking for a new owner.
About 1,300 people were told this morning they faced the immediate prospect of redundancy after talks with two potential buyers failed to bear fruit last week, unions said.
Wrightbus managers told unions at the company’s Northern Ireland factory on Wednesday.
A further 3,400 people with jobs in the firm’s direct supply chain also now face uncertainty.
DUP MP Ian Paisley described the news as a “body blow” for Ballymena, where the factory is situated, and Northern Ireland’s economy. “Essentially from this point the administrator has a week to find a buyer,” he said.
“This is heartbreaking,” he told the BBC. “I don’t believe it will fail – I believe that the administration process will attract a buyer into the field and that we will see buses manufactured again in Ballymena. But unfortunately this is a painful, painful process directly for the employees.”
Trade union Unite’s regional secretary Jackie Pollock said: “This is a workforce at the cutting edge of technological advancements in the design and supply of green public transport, we cannot afford to lose any more jobs or skills in this area.”
“Ultimately if a solution based on a new buyer isn’t found immediately the government must intervene to save jobs and skills, just three months ago Boris Johnson gave assurances that he ‘will do everything we can to ensure the future of that great UK company’, he has a chance today to do something decent.”
Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that in the second quarter of 2019 new bus and coach registrations fell 30 per cent versus the same period last year.