Coronavirus: Ballymena Wrightbus will cut up to 125 jobs

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A completed Bus Eireann bus leaves the Wrightbus factory in Ballymena, Northern Ireland

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Liam McBurney / PA

Wrightbus, the bus manufacturer of Ballymena, is cutting up to 125 employees in response to the economic downturn.

It will lay off up to 35 permanent employees and reduce agency staff to 90 workers “over a staggered period”.

The owners of the company say it will have 10 times the workforce it had when it bought it out of administration last year.

Wrightbus chief executive said the layoffs “are a necessary step.”

“When we rescued Wrightbus, there were only about 50 employees, and since then we’ve grown to 700,” said general manager Buta Atwal.

“The decision has been made to downsize to the size we think we need to support us until the end of the year.

“The layoffs are a necessary measure given the economic slowdown due to the current coronavirus crisis. “

Atwal said that a large part of the workforce had been freed but that around 100 engineers, designers and salespeople continued to work during the crisis.

He added that the target was still to have around 1,000 people working for the company by the end of 2021 and “we hope to be able to re-hire some of those who have been laid off.”

‘Very disappointing’

Responding to the announcement, North Antrim MP Ian Paisley called on the government to present the hydrogen bus strategy for the UK.

“It is very disappointing that Wrightbus was forced to announce layoffs,” said Paisley.

“Since the takeover of the company, the company has steadily increased its workforce, but I share the hope of the company that its long-term vision can still be realized.

“There are obvious fears about the longer term impact of the Covid-19 epidemic on the wider economy of Northern Ireland and that these layoffs will intensify in the future. “

Paisley added that advancing the “much needed hydrogen bus strategy” would be “transformative” for the industry and would also help achieve environmental goals.

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