Belfast Telegraph

'As a family, we have given Wrightbus around 75 years of service'

Brothers David, Darryl and Gareth Robinson along with their brother-in-law Gary McMaster, who have a combined service of 75 years at Wrightbus
Brothers David, Darryl and Gareth Robinson along with their brother-in-law Gary McMaster, who have a combined service of 75 years at Wrightbus
Protest: Andrew French
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

Around 500 former Wrightbus employees and their families protested outside the church where Jeff Wright preaches yesterday, calling for their jobs back and raising questions over donations Green Pastures has received from his failed company.

Some £15m was donated to the Green Pastures charity from company dividends when the Co Antrim bus manufacturer was profitable.

Ex-employees lined the perimeter of the church and draped their work shirts on fences nearby.

Those gathered were clear that their demonstration was to be totally peaceful, stressing that their frustration was not aimed at the members of the church but at the head of it.

They began arriving outside the church two hours before the Sunday morning service was due to begin, many carrying placards.

Community police mingled with the crowd but the atmosphere was peaceful as they applauded Sir William when he arrived and left the service.

Among those protesting outside were brothers Darryl (38), David (35) and Gareth Robinson (33) along with their brother-in-law Gary McMaster (35), who have a combined service of 75 years to the firm.

"We want the gates open and the men and women back to work," said David, who worked at Wrightbus for 19 years.

"We are here because we want to work and we know that the company can be saved."

"We are all gutted and never thought this day would come," added Darryl gave over 22 years of his life to Wrightbus. As a family we have given this company many years of service all over the world. It was a great company and it's devastating to see what has happened to it."

Gareth, who worked at Wrightbus for 17 years, is expecting his second child's arrival in December.

He said: "My daughter is five years old today and this is not where we want to be on her birthday.

"I came to Wrightbus straight after school so this is all I know.

"I have been to every recruitment agency in Ballymena and further afield in the past few days, applying for everything.

"We have been through hard times before and got through it so they need to get it sorted because this never needed to happen. I have given the family my all down the years so all I'm asking is for the same in return."

Father-of-two Andrew French (34) from nearby Ahoghill worked at the plant for 18 years along with his father Ian, who spent 43 years there, while his sister Sophie was also an employee for the last six years.

Andrew is married with a 10-month-old baby and a four-year-old.

"My father and sister were on holiday in Benidorm when they got the news that their jobs were gone," he said.

"Given my father's age, he doesn't know what he's going to do as it will be harder for him to get another job.

"My wife works in HR and that's our only saving grace at the moment so we can just about cover the bills.

"Thankfully our kids are not at the age yet that they're able to understand what's happening, otherwise they would be worrying too.

"Christmas is just 12 weeks away and could be cancelled.

"I spent the guts of £5,000 of my savings doing up the house recently because we were told that there was no threat and things would be OK.

"If I had known what was going to happen I would never have done that," Andrew added.

"We all feel let down. It is an awful situation to be in. We just want our jobs back and clarity on what happened."

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