Union urges Wrightbus to put workers on 'furlough'

Dessie Blackadder

Reporter:

Dessie Blackadder

Unite the Union has called on the new Wrightbus owners to furlough workers under the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme.

George Brash (pictured above with other Union Officers) Unite Regional Officer who was a prominent figure in the saga which ended in last year’s takeover wants the new Wrightbus management to mitigate its plans for a phased redundancy among its Ballymena workforce.

He said: "Unite has been engaging regularly with the new owners of Wrightbus with a view to securing the maximal investment and employment at the factory’s Ballymena site. The announcement by management is therefore profoundly regrettable.

“Management plans to make redundant 35 employees and to bring forward a phased-process of reducing agency staffing affecting up to 90 workers. Every job lost is a heavy blow for the individual concerned, their household, the wider community and economy – especially in the face of the current Covid-19 pandemic.

“Ahead of this announcement being made, I spoke to senior management to call on them to utilise the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme to protect jobs and retain skilled workers; the prospect of workers being thrown onto the dole queues at this time is unacceptable.

“Management confirmed they will be proceeding to a 30-day consultative period on their proposals but that they will consider furlough as an option. They sought to reassure us of their ambitions for Wrightbus in Ballymena and its centrality to their plans.

“Instead of reducing employment, we need to ramp up production of hydrogen-buses to curb greenhouse gas emissions and transition to a more environmentally-sustainable economy.

“The Wrightbus workforce is perfectly positioned to make a vital contribution to that; they have the skills to build the buses at the heart of any future green transport policy.

“The request for furlough will be top of Unite’s agenda in the consultation process. Having played a lead role in securing the transfer of Wrightbus, which faced liquidation, to the Bamford group we are determined to bring as many jobs as possible to Ballymena as a result”, Mr Brash concluded.

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