Mass rally for former Wrightbus workers and a march to the factory gates are to be held

A MASS rally of former Wrightbus workers is due to be held at Ballymena Showgrounds and a march is also scheduled to take place from the town to the factory gates in Galgorm

Unite the Union NI said on Twitter: ‘How to accommodate a mass rally of a thousand #Wrightbus workers? Step up #Ballymena showgrounds – who have offered Unite free use of their main stand. #SaveWrightbus Rally this Wednesday 4-6pm.’

 

On Friday a ‘march for jobs’ is planned from Unite Ballymena offices to the gates of Wrightbus where a rally will also be held.

Unite Regional Secretary Jackie Pollock today confirmed that his union would be mobilising members for a campaign to save jobs and skills at the stricken Wrightbus factory in Ballymena.

The union has scheduled a rally for the workforce and their families at the Ballymena showgrounds this coming Wednesday (October 2nd) at 4 pm.

At noon on Friday (October 4th), a ‘Save Wrightbus Jobs & Skills’ march will leave Unite Ballymena offices and proceed to the Wrightbus gates where a second rally will be held.

He said: “Unite is determined to secure a future for our members in Wrightbus and for Ballymena, we will be ferocious in our campaign to save these jobs.

“Instead of hand-wringing and honeyed-words, we need to see action now from government and the Wright family. They must hand back the land to the people of Ballymena and remove any obstacle to the gates of the site reopening and our members getting back to work.

“Unite will not sit back and watch as twelve hundred jobs are offered as a sacrifice to the interests of one family. We need to see urgent action – the clock is ticking on these jobs and hope for Ballymena’s economy,” he said.

Unite Regional Officer for Wrightbus, George Brash, confirmed his union had arranged a rally and march in coming days as the campaign to save Wrightbus jobs gains momentum.

“We’d like to thank everyone involved in securing the main stand at Ballymena Showgrounds for a rally for the workforce and their families. The stadium will be open at 4pm on Wednesday for a rally to demonstrate the urgency of our campaign.

“At noon on Friday Unite will organise a save Wrightbus Jobs & Skills march which will leave our Ballymena offices and proceed along the Galgorm Road where workers will hold a second rally at the gates of the Wrightbus site,

“Wrightbus workers will be joined by other trade unionists including those occupying Harland and Wolff. Our members will accept nothing less than the action needed to reopen the doors and let them get back to work.

“This is a fight not just for the twelve hundred workers facing redundancy but for the future of Ballymena. It is not a fight we can afford to lose,” Mr Brash concluded.

Meanwhile, North Antrim UUP MLA and UUP Leader Robin Swann has called on the Conservative Party Chancellor to show his support for Wrightbus employees by placing orders that a potential buyer could deliver.

Assemblyman Swann said: “Today Sajid Javid will announce £25 billion for an ‘infrastructure revolution’ which would include national 5G broadband coverage, upgrades to major roads and a revitalised bus service.

“The funding promised will include £50 million to equip a number of towns with all electric buses; this is a Wrightbus speciality and I am asking Mr Javid, through the Secretary of State, to give a pledge that the order for these buses should be placed with Wrightbus to show that it has a viable order book.

“If it is truly the Government’s strategy to invest in low carbon travel, then a double win for them would be to invest their confidence in the Wrightbus workforce by giving them that commitment,” urged Assemblyman Swann.

TUV leader and North Antrim MLA Jim Allister said: “Last week has been one of the most difficult and trying for everyone in Ballymena.

“When Michelin and JTI fell there was great despair, but the collapse of Wrightbus has the added and poignant component of it being a locally formed and nurtured business which has failed, and without the cushion of significant redundancy packages.

“With Wrightbus the sense of loss is palpable.

“It is no surprise that anger thrives as well with many understandably asking ‘what are our politicians doing?’ I get that.

“I can only answer for myself and my party, but we have been engaged proactively with unions, the company and the administrator.

“Not everything can be for public consumption at this point because the overriding objective is to try and salvage as much as possible from these ruins.

“I’ve had several contacts with the Administrator over the weekend, as well as meeting with former employees and a representative of company management and engaging with potential buyers. TUV councillors have been equally active.

“I still believe something worthwhile can be salvaged. Wrightbus has a marvellous product. It must not be lost. In particular, we must not see the ‘ahead of the game’ hydrogen technology stripped out and sold to the Far East.

“Sir William Wright, especially, had a tremendous record for developing and embracing new technology, yet the danger is that if a buyer can’t be found for the whole business, the intellectual property rights will be sold to the highest bidder, as the Administrator breaks up the business.

“It is natural to apportion blame, but the dignity and empathy of Sir William Wright will touch many as they feel for a man who in advanced years see his life’s work crumble.

“The next few days are critical. It behoves everyone to bend all their efforts towards the end of a successful outcome.”

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