Belfast Telegraph

Wrightbus: Workers jubilant but vow to continue fight to secure jobs

By Eimear McGovern and Ralph Hewitt

Workers have said they're relieved a deal has been reached in principle between the owner of the Wrightbus factory site Jeff Wright and industrialist Jo Bamford.

But they said their next fight is to secure as many jobs as possible when the company resumes trading.

Speaking from the Ballymena factory on Friday morning, they said questions still remain over what will happen to jobs in the factory, hundreds of which are said to be at risk.

It's after the two stakeholders appeared to be at loggerheads over a disagreement over land to complete the deal for the collapsed company.

Robert Thompson worked for Wrightbus for six years.

"It's so positive we just need confirmation from the administrators. It's such a relief now that we can move forward," he said.

Stephen Russell worked at the Ballymena factory for nine years: "It's just a matter of seeing how many workers he wants back and hopefully it's a majority of us.

"We haven't had much sleep lately but hopefully this will sort things out."

A long-term employee Andrew French, who has been with Wrightbus for 18 years, said: "I'm delighted but at the same time we still don't know who's getting their jobs back. That's the next fight we have."

While a deal has been agreed in principle between Jeff Wright and Jo Bamford over the land, a final agreement is still to be reached with the administrator. Although this is widely expected to complete.

Ulster Unionist Leader and North Antrim MLA Robin Swann welcomed the announcement of a deal in principle.

He said: "The announcement of a deal being reached in principle between Jo Bamford and the Wright family is welcome news. The workers, including members of my own family, are relieved after such a tortuous process where hopes were raised and dashed before the announcement of today`s deal.

"It has been a roller-coaster of emotions for the workers and their families. This announcement will come as a welcome relief for many and I`m glad that common sense has prevailed.

Wrightbus workers celebrate as news breaks that a deal was reached 'in principle' for Wrightbus sale
Wrightbus workers celebrate as news breaks that a deal was reached 'in principle' for Wrightbus sale
Pacemaker Press 10/10/19 Wrightbus workers celebrate as news breaks that a Deal was reached 'in principle' for Wrightbus sale. Bidder Jo Bamford said agreement had been reached with "the Wright family for the Wrightbus factory and land". "We are still to conclude a deal with the administrators but are pleased to report this important step in the right direction. "I would like to thank Ian Paisley for his hard work and diligence in helping to mediate what has at times been a tricky negotiation." Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Happiness at Ballymena as news breaks a deal has been reached between Jo Bamford and Wrightbus
11th October 2019 Happiness at Ballymena as Union reps deliver the news that a deal to save Wrightbus has been accepted. Union reps pictured as they receive word that the deal has been done to save the factory Mandatory Credit Presseye/Stephen Hamilton
11th October 2019 Happiness at Ballymena as Union reps deliver the news that a deal to save Wrightbus has been accepted. Union reps pictured as they receive word that the deal has been done to save the factory Mandatory Credit Presseye/Stephen Hamilton
11th October 2019 Happiness at Ballymena as Union reps deliver the news that a deal to save Wrightbus has been accepted. Mandatory Credit Presseye/Stephen Hamilton
11th October 2019 Happiness at Ballymena as Union reps deliver the news that a deal to save Wrightbus has been accepted. Mandatory Credit Presseye/Stephen Hamilton
11th October 2019 Happiness at Ballymena as Union reps deliver the news that a deal to save Wrightbus has been accepted. Mandatory Credit Presseye/Stephen Hamilton
11th October 2019 Happiness at Ballymena as Union reps deliver the news that a deal to save Wrightbus has been accepted. Mandatory Credit Presseye/Stephen Hamilton
11th October 2019 Happiness at Ballymena as Union reps deliver the news that a deal to save Wrightbus has been accepted. Mandatory Credit Presseye/Stephen Hamilton
11th October 2019 Happiness at Ballymena as Union reps deliver the news that a deal to save Wrightbus has been accepted. Mandatory Credit Presseye/Stephen Hamilton
11th October 2019 Happiness at Ballymena as Union reps deliver the news that a deal to save Wrightbus has been accepted. Mandatory Credit Presseye/Stephen Hamilton
11th October 2019 Happiness at Ballymena as Union reps deliver the news that a deal to save Wrightbus has been accepted. Mandatory Credit Presseye/Stephen Hamilton
11th October 2019 Happiness at Ballymena as Union reps deliver the news that a deal to save Wrightbus has been accepted. Mandatory Credit Presseye/Stephen Hamilton
11th October 2019 Happiness at Ballymena as Union reps deliver the news that a deal to save Wrightbus has been accepted. Mandatory Credit Presseye/Stephen Hamilton
11th October 2019 Happiness at Ballymena as Union reps deliver the news that a deal to save Wrightbus has been accepted. Mandatory Credit Presseye/Stephen Hamilton
11th October 2019 Happiness at Ballymena as Union reps deliver the news that a deal to save Wrightbus has been accepted. Mandatory Credit Presseye/Stephen Hamilton
11th October 2019 Happiness at Ballymena as Union reps deliver the news that a deal to save Wrightbus has been accepted. Mandatory Credit Presseye/Stephen Hamilton
11th October 2019 Happiness at Ballymena as Union reps deliver the news that a deal to save Wrightbus has been accepted. Union rep George Brash delivers the good news to waiting workers outside the factory. Mandatory Credit Presseye/Stephen Hamilton
11th October 2019 Happiness at Ballymena as Union reps deliver the news that a deal to save Wrightbus has been accepted. Union rep George Brash delivers the good news to waiting workers outside the factory. Mandatory Credit Presseye/Stephen Hamilton
11th October 2019 Happiness at Ballymena as Union reps deliver the news that a deal to save Wrightbus has been accepted. Mandatory Credit Presseye/Stephen Hamilton
11th October 2019 Happiness at Ballymena as Union reps deliver the news that a deal to save Wrightbus has been accepted. Mandatory Credit Presseye/Stephen Hamilton
11th October 2019 Happiness at Ballymena as Union reps deliver the news that a deal to save Wrightbus has been accepted. Union rep George Brash delivers the good news to waiting workers outside the factory. Mandatory Credit Presseye/Stephen Hamilton
11th October 2019 Happiness at Ballymena as Union reps deliver the news that a deal to save Wrightbus has been accepted. Mandatory Credit Presseye/Stephen Hamilton
11th October 2019 Happiness at Ballymena as Union reps deliver the news that a deal to save Wrightbus has been accepted. Union rep George Brash delivers the good news to waiting workers outside the factory. Mandatory Credit Presseye/Stephen Hamilton

"The workers combining with Union support have had a huge influence on the final outcome and should be commended for the way in which they have conducted themselves throughout this process.

"The next few days will see the shape of the future of Wrightbus and its workforce. It will obviously take a bit of time to get the deal finalised and the operation up and running again, but the quicker that the workers are able to get through the Wrightbus gates and get back to work, the better.”

TUV leader Jim Allister also welcomed the news.

"I want to commend all who made this possible, many working tirelessly behind the scenes. I particularly salute the fortitude of the workers. The agreement to gift the farmland to the council is an equitable and sensible outcome. Now, all need to bind together to make this factory great again," he said.

"With all the rancour that was stirred, we now need a time of healing. The Wright family, especially under Sir William Wright, made an immeasurable contribution to jobs and prosperity in Ballymena and further afield.

"Sir William’s vision and entrepreneurship put Ballymena on the map with cutting edge technology in the bus sector and it is this which will go on giving in terms of future success.

"So, let’s put the last few weeks behind us and all pull with the new owner to move forward with confidence and success."

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