Belfast Telegraph

Wrightbus: Ballymena United kick off town's efforts to back workers

John Taggart
John Taggart
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

Ballymena United have offered those who lost their jobs following the collapse of Wrightbus free entry into their Irish League clash against Cliftonville tomorrow.

The Co Antrim town suffered a huge economic blow with the closure of the firm and the loss of the 1,200 jobs there.

Employees were told on Wednesday that they were jobless with immediate effect.

Many Ballymena businesses are standing shoulder to shoulder with the workforce, such as McAtamney's Butchers, who are giving a 15% discount to Wrightbus staff.

Meanwhile, Hillstown Farm Shop in Randalstown are offering Wrightbus workers a five piece fry for £3 with a free hot drink and 10% off in their cafe and shop until the end of next month to thank them for their loyalty over the years.

Showing their solidarity, Ballymena United's board of directors announced their own goodwill gesture.

"The devastating news that Wrightbus has entered administration was a body blow to their workers, their families and the wider supply network, many of whom are in the make-up of our loyal fan base," read a club statement.

"At Ballymena United we recognise that our club is a focal point for all sections of the community and we share in the emotions that have swept over our town in the last 48 hours.

"This morning the board of directors and management committee have discussed ways in which Ballymena United can give back to those who support us through thick and thin, acknowledging that as our fans are there for the club, so too must the club be there for its fans.

"In that regard, the first step will be to offer free admission to all Wrightbus employees at our match versus Cliftonville (tomorrow, 3pm) on production of their Wrightbus ID or clock card."

Ballymena United chairman John Taggart hopes the minds of Wrightbus' former employees can be taken off the dire situation during the game and revealed this is just the first gesture the club will provide the workforce.

"First and foremost, Ballymena United sits at the heart of the community and we feel the pain of those who have lost their jobs in this sad situation," he said.

"Quite a number of Wrightbus employees would wear the colours of Ballymena United.

"The gesture is pointed to those individuals who have lost their jobs at this point in time and we hope to do something else as we go forward.

"We know in many ways that this is only a token gesture, but if it helps take their mind off the situation they're in for a couple of hours then we would certainly love to see them come to The Showgrounds."

The club's manager David Jeffrey added that the thoughts of everybody outside of Wrightbus are with those who lost their jobs.

"To be made redundant under the circumstances that they were is really, really cruel for the town," he said.

"In the grand scheme of things it's a very, very small gesture. It's more about aligning ourselves with a group of people to show that we're standing together."

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