PM urged to intervene as ‘Boris bus’ maker crashes into administration
The Northern Ireland company built London’s distinctive red double-decker buses when Boris Johnson was mayor of the capital.
Boris Johnson has been urged to “do something decent” and intervene on behalf of one of the UK’s main bus manufacturers as it went into administration.
The Unite union warned of “devastating consequences” for the workforce at Wrightbus, which manufactured the so-called ‘Boris bus’ ordered by Mr Johnson when he was London mayor.
Regional secretary Jackie Pollock said the firm went in administration on Wednesday morning, adding: “This is a workforce at the cutting edge of technological advancements in the design and supply of green public transport.
“We cannot afford to lose any more jobs or skills in this area.
“Just three months ago Boris Johnson gave assurances that he ‘will do everything we can to ensure the future of that great UK company’.
“He has a chance today to do something decent.”
Mr Pollock said 1,400 workers and 1,700 supply chain jobs were threatened even though Ballymena-based Wrightbus had a “world-class” product.
He said the firm had a potential buyer until last Friday.
At least two Chinese firms and one Northern Irish company were interested, union sources said.
Administrators told Wrightbus workers during mass meetings covering all sections of production but the union appealed to them to show creativity in finding a solution.
DUP MP Ian Paisley said the administrator “has a week to find a buyer”.
The North Antrim firm has been seeking investment or a new owner as it struggles with cash problems.
Stormont Assembly member Jim Allister said: “My heart goes out to the hundreds with no wage packet this week or job hereafter.”
Wrightbus has been a hugely profitable company in the past and based its business model on producing low-emissions vehicles.
When Mr Johnson was mayor he announced a lucrative order to produce London’s distinctive red double-decker, an updated version of the original Routemaster.
Critics at the time said the new “Boris buses” were too expensive and estimated that the first eight had cost £1.4 million each to design and build.
There were also complaints that the new Routemasters, which were longer and heavier than other models, were unbearably hot with later batches altered to provide windows.
Mr Johnson visited Wrightbus during the EU referendum campaign in February 2016.
Wrightbus founder William Wright has been a prominent supporter of Brexit and the DUP, which has been propping up the Tories at Westminster.
Northern Ireland’s manufacturing industry has been under pressure in recent years with the slumping into administration of Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast.
Michelin Tyres and Gallaher’s Tobacco firms have also closed in Ballymena.