Belfast Telegraph

Wrightbus: Ian Paisley says 'bell now tolls for the landlord' to finalise deal

Former Wright Bus Workers outside the factory in Ballymena waiting for news to see if their jobs and the factory have been saved. Credit: Peter Morrison
Former Wright Bus Workers outside the factory in Ballymena waiting for news to see if their jobs and the factory have been saved. Credit: Peter Morrison

DUP MP Ian Paisley has said a deal to save Wrightbus has been agreed by the banks and administrators, and now "the bell tolls for the landlord" to finalise the purchase.

It is understood a deadline of 10am on Thursday has been set to finalise a deal.

Mr Paisley said there was only one outstanding issue left in talks, the ownership of the land where Wrightbus is based, and the firm faces going into administration on Thursday if the deal does not go ahead.

He said a deal had been accepted involving a rescue of the company by the only bidder left in the process  — believed to be Jo Bamford, the son of JCB owner Lord Bamford.

But he said a separate deal still needs to be done for the land owned by Jeff Wright, the son of Wrightbus co-founder William Wright, where the main Wrightbus factory is situated.

"This is the last chance and I really hope a deal can be done," he said.

"The banks have accepted it, the administrators have accepted it and now the bell tolls for the landlord. I would urge all those now to make this agreement and get back to making buses in Ballymena."

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He said he understood that the deal for the purchase of the company would bring back hundreds of jobs.

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.

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley
North Antrim MP Ian Paisley

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.

Speaking at former employees gather outside the factory in Ballymena on Wednesday, ex-worker Mark Walford said: "This new deadline is ridiculous. Just get it done. I just don't know if it will be done."

Unite regional officer George Brash said: "The consistent issue is the land. All we're saying and we've said this from day one, there should be no barrier to employment to get this workforce back to work.

"The land is the only issue that needs to be resolved. We have been given a deadline of 10 o'clock tomorrow morning for a deal to be done."

"Our younger members in particular are distraught, they have worked extremely hard through a coach-building apprenticeship and now they say they have nowhere to go. That's the real human cost of closure. We can't just sit back and watch this happen.

"This is the eleventh hour in the effort to save these jobs. Unite is calling on Jeff Wright to do the right thing - by this workforce, by their families, and by this town. We need him to hand over the land, save their livelihoods and offer hope for so many in the mouth of Christmas. There's still time to deliver a hopeful future but we need him to act now."

Deloitte and Ryse Hydrogen have been asked for comment. 

Workers at the march for jobs from Unite’s Ballymena offices to the gates of the Wrightbus site in the Co Antrim town
Workers at the march for jobs from Unite’s Ballymena offices to the gates of the Wrightbus site in the Co Antrim town

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