Northern Ireland news

Boris Johnson pledges to 'do what we can' to help Wrightbus

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to do "what we can to help" after Ballymena company Wrightbus went into administration. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

The Northern Ireland Secretary is under pressure to intervene to save jobs after one of the UK's main bus builders entered administration.

Trade unionists are holding daily meetings with the company running Co Antrim-based Wrightbus after 1,200 workers were made redundant.

It followed failed attempts to find a buyer.

George Brash, Unite the union regional officer, said: "They said they are doing everything they can and they are going to have daily meetings with us and contact with us throughout this process.

"We are hopeful. It is very time-critical but at this stage we are putting pressure on the Secretary of State (Julian Smith) to intervene, we will continue to talk to the administrators and our goal is to get this operation up and running."

Wrightbus built London's Routemaster double-decker - dubbed the "Boris Bus" - which was ordered by the Prime Minister when he was mayor and chair of Transport for London, the capital's public transport operator.

Read More: Boris Johnson urged to intervene as Wrightbus lays off 1,200 

Speaking last night, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson described Wrightbus going into administration as "so disappointing", pledging to do "what we can to help".

"We are going to keep going and it's a fantastic business and obviously I am very sad it has gone into receivership," he said.

"One of the problems was that the current Mayor of London frankly didn't continue with what was a very, very good contract, which he should have done. I understand there were also problems to do with the management of the company but it's a brilliant brand".

He added: "We have been working on it. We are going to do what we can to help".

Meanwhile, Ballymena United Football Club has offered free admission to a weekend fixture to former workers at the factory.

The club said: "We hope that, even if for 90 minutes, everyone's mind will be diverted to the team on the pitch and we can roar the lads home to a valuable three points."

The club offered the workers free entry to their weekend fixture against Cliftonville.

Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) official Owen Reidy said Wrightbus "should have engaged with the union much earlier to explore alternatives".

"It is essential that the state steps up if an alternative buyer cannot be found to save these jobs, or to utilise those skills in energy-efficient public transportation.

"Like the workers at Harland & Wolff, the workers at Wrightbus should be viewed as investments in any Green New Deal, and not a cost to the Exchequer.

"The trade union movement stands ready to support our friends in Unite in any way we can."

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