Belfast Telegraph

48 hours to save Wrightbus jobs says union after report of single bidder for collapsed firm

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Friday 4th October 2019 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye March for jobs from Unite Ballymena offices to gates of Wrightbus site Ballymena.
Unite calls rally and march as campaign intensifies to save jobs and skills, Unite is determined to secure a future for our members in Wrightbus and for Ballymena, we will be ferocious in our campaign to save these jobs.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Friday 4th October 2019 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye March for jobs from Unite Ballymena offices to gates of Wrightbus site Ballymena. Unite calls rally and march as campaign intensifies to save jobs and skills, Unite is determined to secure a future for our members in Wrightbus and for Ballymena, we will be ferocious in our campaign to save these jobs.
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

Jo Bamford, the son of JCB chairman Lord Bamford, is now the only bidder left in talks to buy over Wrightbus, according to reports.

A trade union representing those workers affected said the coming days was crucial to saving jobs.

Sky News reported that Mr Bamford, whose family is behind equipment giant JCB,  is now in exclusive talks about a takeover of the business.

Administrators from advisory firm Deloitte were appointed to Wrightbus two weeks ago with the loss of 1,200 jobs after cash flow problems arising from trading difficulties.

Mr Bamford had been in talks over a purchase of the company before it went into administration, but was reported to have walked away before a deal could be done.

The price of land rented by Wrightbus, which is owned by Jeff Wright —  the son of company founder Sir William Wright – is believed to have been a stumbling block in deals to buy the company. 

Mr Bamford’s business Ryse Hydrogen has already worked with Wrightbus on a project to make hydrogen-fuelled buses for Transport for London.

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March for jobs from Unite Ballymena offices to gates of Wrightbus site Ballymena. Credit: Jonathan Porter/PressEye
March for jobs from Unite Ballymena offices to gates of Wrightbus site Ballymena. Credit: Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Friday 4th October 2019 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye March for jobs from Unite Ballymena offices to gates of Wrightbus site Ballymena. Unite calls rally and march as campaign intensifies to save jobs and skills, Unite is determined to secure a future for our members in Wrightbus and for Ballymena, we will be ferocious in our campaign to save these jobs.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Friday 4th October 2019 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye March for jobs from Unite Ballymena offices to gates of Wrightbus site Ballymena. Unite calls rally and march as campaign intensifies to save jobs and skills, Unite is determined to secure a future for our members in Wrightbus and for Ballymena, we will be ferocious in our campaign to save these jobs.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Friday 4th October 2019 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye March for jobs from Unite Ballymena offices to gates of Wrightbus site Ballymena. Unite calls rally and march as campaign intensifies to save jobs and skills, Unite is determined to secure a future for our members in Wrightbus and for Ballymena, we will be ferocious in our campaign to save these jobs.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Friday 4th October 2019 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye March for jobs from Unite Ballymena offices to gates of Wrightbus site Ballymena. Unite calls rally and march as campaign intensifies to save jobs and skills, Unite is determined to secure a future for our members in Wrightbus and for Ballymena, we will be ferocious in our campaign to save these jobs.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Friday 4th October 2019 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye March for jobs from Unite Ballymena offices to gates of Wrightbus site Ballymena. Unite calls rally and march as campaign intensifies to save jobs and skills, Unite is determined to secure a future for our members in Wrightbus and for Ballymena, we will be ferocious in our campaign to save these jobs.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Friday 4th October 2019 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye March for jobs from Unite Ballymena offices to gates of Wrightbus site Ballymena. Unite calls rally and march as campaign intensifies to save jobs and skills, Unite is determined to secure a future for our members in Wrightbus and for Ballymena, we will be ferocious in our campaign to save these jobs.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Friday 4th October 2019 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye March for jobs from Unite Ballymena offices to gates of Wrightbus site Ballymena. Unite calls rally and march as campaign intensifies to save jobs and skills, Unite is determined to secure a future for our members in Wrightbus and for Ballymena, we will be ferocious in our campaign to save these jobs.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Friday 4th October 2019 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye March for jobs from Unite Ballymena offices to gates of Wrightbus site Ballymena. Unite calls rally and march as campaign intensifies to save jobs and skills, Unite is determined to secure a future for our members in Wrightbus and for Ballymena, we will be ferocious in our campaign to save these jobs.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Friday 4th October 2019 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye March for jobs from Unite Ballymena offices to gates of Wrightbus site Ballymena. Unite calls rally and march as campaign intensifies to save jobs and skills, Unite is determined to secure a future for our members in Wrightbus and for Ballymena, we will be ferocious in our campaign to save these jobs.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Friday 4th October 2019 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye March for jobs from Unite Ballymena offices to gates of Wrightbus site Ballymena. Unite calls rally and march as campaign intensifies to save jobs and skills, Unite is determined to secure a future for our members in Wrightbus and for Ballymena, we will be ferocious in our campaign to save these jobs.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Friday 4th October 2019 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye March for jobs from Unite Ballymena offices to gates of Wrightbus site Ballymena. Unite calls rally and march as campaign intensifies to save jobs and skills, Unite is determined to secure a future for our members in Wrightbus and for Ballymena, we will be ferocious in our campaign to save these jobs.

Trade union Unite said next 48 hours were now critical, and there was now real urgency for deal to be done

Regional officer George Brash said: "Unite understand that negotiations for sale of the company has moved to a point of exclusivity with a single, prospective buyer. The only issue outstanding now is that of the land ownership associated with the factory site.

“Twelve hundred workers' livelihoods, the living conditions of their families and the entire local economy now hang in the balance. We are in a situation where if the issue of the land is not resolved in the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours then the prospect of safeguarding their future will disappear.

Jo Bamford
Jo Bamford

"This is a fight for the future of the Ballymena economy - it is a fight we can win. Politicians now need to come off the sidelines and get behind this workforce to secure that future", Mr Brash concluded.

Deloitte and Ryse Hydrogen have been asked for comment. 

Last Tuesday administrator Michael Magney of Deloitte told a meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council that time was ticking on a deal. 

“My best guess is if we haven’t got a deal agreed in the next seven to 10 days, maximum two weeks, then I don’t think there will be a business to sell.”

And he told councillors that the property currently used by Wrightbus was still a stumbling block.

“In terms of the property, it is still a sticking point.

“If it is a bidder looking to lease it, I would probably be more confident on that but if it is a bidder looking to buy the site then I think that is probably more difficult. It is really a debate between the bidder and the landlord.”

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