All workers made redundant as bus-maker Nu-Track goes into administration

A Mercedes-Benz Atego based Merlyn wheelchair accessible coach, typical of those build at Nu-Track in Ballymena
Gary McDonald Business Editor

MORE than 60 workers are being made immediately redundant at Ballymena manufacturer Nu-Track, which specialises in producing wheelchair accessible buses, minibuses, mobile libraries and horse-boxes.

But given the skills-set of the employees, and the number of vacancies in the manufacturing sector in the area, it is envisaged that many may be able to find alternative work in the coming weeks.

A letter sent by director Rob Shiels said: “It is with deepest regret that we give notice to all staff and employees of the permanent closure of the company . . . and persons employed are herein given notice of their redundancy.”

Nu-Track has links to controversial pastor Jeff Wright, who ceased to be a person with significant control of the firm in July - on the same day Mr Shiels (his son-in-law) was appointed a director.

In a statement, Nu-Track said it is “with profound regret” that workers were being laid off, and said “every effort has been made to avoid closure”.

It cited “several factors that limit the options available to us”, including the decision by a local client to withdraw from a contract for 130 vehicles and, says Nu-Track, withdrew after approximately 70 vehicles had been delivered, owing a substantial debt to the company which it is now pursuing through the courts.

Its statement added: “This, combined with public sector clients who, despite our requests, were not willing to make any payment towards their orders prior to delivery of their completed vehicles, placed an unreasonable strain on cashflow.

“Our inability to fulfil this order without customer funding resulted in the base vehicles being removed by the client, bringing an end to our shop floor production, and consequently causing job losses.

“On reflection we should not have entered imbalanced contracts of this type, where the customer, although a government body, had no contribution to the build cost.”

The company statement also mentioned increasing component costs, unprecedented rises in base metal prices, reduced production volumes and extensive delays in bus chassis supply from manufacturers as further issues.

It added: “We have sought to close our operations at a time when employee demand within our sector is high in the local area. Care of our staff being paramount.”

MLA for the area Jim Allister said he was disappointed at the closure decision but added: “It is good that outstanding wages will be paid and redundancy procedures set in motion, but the key concern now is to find these workers alternative employment.”

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley added: “It's very sudden and incredibly bad news for the company and its employees, but I would reiterate that the entire workforce can be accommodated within the near vicinity.

“I have already spoken to other manufacturers in the area who have assured me they can absorb every worker who is made redundant, because the manufacturing sector is in so much need of employees and experienced skill sets.”