Northern Ireland news

Many workers have not yet received September wages as Wrightbus poised to go into administration

Boris Johnson pictured at the Wrightbus factory in Ballymena back in 2011
Gary McDonald Business Editor

TROUBLED Ballymena bus-maker Wrightbus is expected to appoint Deloitte as administrator today in a move which puts 1,300 jobs at risk.

Crisis meetings between management, unions and staff were held yesterday ahead of the pending administration as sources indicated that many workers have not yet received their September wages.

The manufacturing giant, which famously made the 'Boris bus' when troubled prime minister Boris Johnston was mayor of London, has been unable to attract a buyer after months of negotiations.

The administration - coming in the wake of the JTI (Gallahers) cigarette factory and Michelin tyre-making plant closing since 2014 - could mean more than 5,000 jobs will have gone in the town.

Last week the mood music at Wrightbus sounded more encouraging when the company revealed it was "close" to securing a suitor.

But talks with different investors have all floundered for various reasons, and the company - founded by the recently knighted Sir William Wright - seems set to tip into administration.

No-one from the company nor from the Unite union, which represents the majority of workers at the plant, would comment last night.

Sources close to one of the bidders said yesterday that the appointment of Deloitte was "almost certain" to happen within 24 hours, putting about 1,300 jobs at risk.

The news will represent a devastating blow to Northern Ireland's manufacturing sector, with the prospects of Wrightbus being salvaged in its current form now understood to be remote.

It will prompt questions about the extent to which the government has intervened to try to support the company following the prime minister's comments several weeks ago, when he told MPs

"it was of great value to the people of this country and I think it's a great company and we will make sure, I give my assurance, we will do everything we can to ensure the future of that great UK company."

Wrightbus's descent into insolvency proceedings will come within hours of Thomas Cook's compulsory liquidation.

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