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SDLP MLA says 95 Wrightbus job losses a 'devastating blow'

An SDLP MLA has said the loss of 95 jobs at Ballymena bus giant Wrightbus is a "devastating blow" to the workers and their families.

On Tuesday afternoon it was announced 95 jobs could be axed amid continuing uncertainty in the UK market.

SDLP business spokesperson Pat Catney said: "“This is a devastating blow to 95 skilled workers and their families.

“Earlier in the year I met with Wrightbus and trade union representatives to secure assurances that workers would not be left in the lurch as a result of previous job losses.

“I will now be seeking further meetings, to address the serious needs and concerns of workers."

He added he had been in discussions with Translink and the Irish government about the sustainability of the transport manufacturing business on the island of Ireland.

The company announced on Tuesday it would begin a consultation process which could lead to further reductions in its Northern Ireland workforce.

It follows on from the outcome of a similar process in February, which resulted in the loss of 95 jobs.

The company said the cuts come due to continuing low levels of demand in the UK bus market.

Wrightbus employs over 1,500 people in Northern Ireland.

The company's best-known product is modern remake of the Routemaster bus, introduced in 2012, with production running for five years.

Union Unite said employees had been informed of the job cuts on Tuesday afternoon.

Regional union officer George Brash said the losses were devastating blow to the local economy of Ballymena, which has seen the closure of the JTI-Gallaher and Michelin factories in recent months.

"The last job loss announcement was blamed by management on the loss of sales to Transport for London and the protracted delay in new orders from Translink. Unite has previously challenged the inexcusable betrayal of Northern Ireland workers by those in government in London who transferred the TfL contracts to China and Egypt," said Mr Brash.

In a statement, Chairman of Wrights Group Mark Nodder OBE said: "There is a good deal of continuing uncertainty - specifically in the UK market - at present, which is causing private and public bus operators alike to delay or postpone their vehicle investment programmes.

“This has a direct impact on production levels at our Ballymena facilities and the announcement that we are making today [Tuesday] - difficult and regrettable as it is - is nonetheless necessary to align workforce requirements with our near term order book.

"We are naturally working proactively with the union, employee representatives and other stakeholders to mitigate both the scale and the impact of job cuts within our business. With existing contracts in build or in the pipeline, and a number of potential projects yet to come to fruition, the company continues to be well positioned for when the market demand for new buses returns to more normal levels.

"As ever, given the sensitivities around this announcement, the company will not be making any further statement until the consultation process is concluded."

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