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Sammy Wilson blasts Wiggle Chain Reaction Cycles job cuts as a 'betrayal'

Published 27/10/2016

Sammy Wilson hit out at WiggleCRC's decision to downsize its Northern Ireland operations.
Sammy Wilson hit out at WiggleCRC's decision to downsize its Northern Ireland operations.
The losses will affect more than half its total workforce.
Chief: Chris Watson

MP Sammy Wilson has described the loss of around 300 jobs at Chain Reaction Cycles as a "betrayal".

Chain Reaction Cycles was taken over earlier this year in a multi-million pound deal with rival Wiggle.

The new company WiggleCRC intends to concentrate the majority of work in Wolverhampton.

Following a review of operations, the company said 152 permanent positions across three sites in Doagh, Carrickfergus and Ballyclare were at risk of redundancy as well as the posts of 161 agency staff, with the jobs to go next year.

It also said at least 275 employees would continue to work for it in Northern Ireland.

More: Three hundred face axe as Wiggle CRC plans to move warehouse to West Midlands

Sammy Wilson, speaking on the BBC, said: "It's not just a disappointment but probably a betrayal. When the firm took over they talked about the growth plans of the business and that was in July.

"And in short period of time all those promises have shown to be false."

Mr Wilson also accused the company of "blatant and cynical asset stripping," adding: "The weasel words about creating an even more 'compelling customer proposition', extending its product range and being 'better placed to compete in the global market' gave the impression that, if anything, the firm would be expanding in Northern Ireland.

"Clearly the most important asset which Chain Reaction had was its customer base which Wiggle wanted to benefit from.

"This asset could be used anywhere and the physical assets such as the warehouses were disposable."

The growth of Chain Reaction Cycles from a small bike shop in Ballynure to one of the world's biggest online retailers was a major Northern Ireland success story.

It also catapulted the Watson family, who founded the company, onto the Sunday Times Rich List.

The Watsons have now left the board of directors of the company they founded.

Former managing director Chris Watson is on the board of WiggleCRC, the firm formed after the merger, and a "significant shareholder".

The company has been asked if it would like to respond to Mr Wilson's comments this morning.

On Wednesday in a statement, WiggleCRC said it had reviewed operations and would be keeping separate websites and brands and a "presence" in Northern Ireland.

But it added: "As part of the review we are aware that delivery, including later order cut-offs and speed, is becoming increasingly important for customers and a highly competitive area for all retailers.

"For WiggleCRC to retain its position and remain competitive in the UK as well as increasingly global markets, we have concluded that this can be best achieved by concentrating the majority of our distribution through our warehouse facility in Wolverhampton.

"This necessary step will require the relocation of significant warehouse activities currently in Doagh, Carrickfergus and Ballyclare. As part of this proposal, bikes and frames, including bike assembly handling activities and our wheel build operation would remain in Ballyclare."

Davy Thompson, regional officer of trade union Unite, said the decision was "indefensible".

"Earlier in the year, Unite reps raised concerns with political leaders that Wiggle's acquisition might be driven by a desire to buy a competitors' order-book with little long-term commitment to its workforce. We were given assurances that this was not the case. This loss of employment is yet another blow to Northern Ireland's economy."

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