Northern Ireland news

Hundreds of people gather in Ballymena in support of Wrightbus workers

Wrightbus workers and supporters marched from Ballymena to the Co Antrim factory. Picture by Justin Kernoghan

HUNDREDS of people gathered in Ballymena yesterday for a rally in support of Wrightbus workers.

Workers from the newly-reopened Harland and Wolff were among those standing in solidarity with the Co Antrim staff as they appealed for help to safeguard jobs and skills.

They walked through the town to the gates of the Wrightbus factory, holding banners appealing to `Save our Jobs, Save our Town' and proclaiming themselves `Ready to work'.

They were told by organisers they had solidarity "from the highest levels of your union" Unite, with a message of personal support from general secretary Len McCluskey.

The bus manufacturer went into administration last week with the loss of 1,200 jobs.

Four potential investors - two from the EU and two from the UK - are understood to be in talks about its future, but a previous round of bidding ended without a deal.

Unite regional secretary Jackie Pollock called for the UK government to act to secure a future for staff.

“The lessons of Harland & Wolff where, after a nine-week workplace occupation, the shipyard was saved must be learnt by all. There is substantial commercial interest in this company but it is vital that we see the urgent action needed from government to ensure the administrators maintain the company as a ‘going-concern'.

“Saving the livelihoods of the 1,200 Wrightbus workers is not just a moral imperative but of vital importance to the social and economic future of Ballymena."

Yesterday's rally was the second major demonstration this week, coming just two days after workers gathered at the Ballymena Showgrounds football stadium.

Former Wrightbus employees were also invited an information event at Northern Regional College's Farm Lodge campus in Ballymena yesterday, where careers advisors offered advice on training and courses.

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