Wright family deny claims that Wrightbus bidders were put off after being asked too much money to lease the property

Wrightbus premises in Co Antrim.  The Wright family rejected BBC reports that potential buyers were put off after being asked for large sums of money to lease the property
Wrightbus premises in Co Antrim. The Wright family rejected BBC reports that potential buyers were put off after being asked for large sums of money to lease the property
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Newly unemployed Wrightbus workers have described the hardships they face following one of the largest single lay-offs ever in Northern Ireland.

The Ballymena-based bus business collapsed into administration this week with the loss of 1,200 jobs.

Former Wrightbus employee Ryan Price, 29, has said that current workers face a struggle to house their families. PA Photo. Picture date: Friday September 27, 2019. He was bidding to buy a house and had saved a deposit but will find it difficult to access state benefits because of his savings. See PA story ULSTER Wrightbus Workers. Photo credit should read: Michael McHugh/PA Wire

Former Wrightbus employee Ryan Price, 29, has said that current workers face a struggle to house their families. PA Photo. Picture date: Friday September 27, 2019. He was bidding to buy a house and had saved a deposit but will find it difficult to access state benefits because of his savings. See PA story ULSTER Wrightbus Workers. Photo credit should read: Michael McHugh/PA Wire

Meanwhile, the Wright family has denied blocking a deal to save the business after the BBC reported potential buyers were put off after being asked for large sums of money to lease the property.

The family said: “Last week there were two final bidders in discussions regarding acquisition of Wright Group.

“A rental agreement for the sites was reached with one bidder, who then pulled out of the deal on Friday 20 September. A second bidder discussed purchasing the sites, but no formal letter of offer was made from that bidder.

“Any reports to the contrary are completely inaccurate.”

And in a day of fast-moving developments, the former Wrightbus director Jeff Wright said that “threats to the life of Wright family members” had been made.

He added: “I am asking all elected representatives and those with influence in the community to help end this intimidation and fear.”

Ryan Price, a supervisor aged 29, is married and his two children share a bedroom in a rental property.

He was bidding to buy a house and had saved a deposit but will find it difficult to access state benefits because of his savings.

“A lot of people are down and out, it is not just us, it affects other companies too,” he said.

“Morale still seems good but it maybe has not sunk in for a lot yet. We will know more in two weeks’ time when we don’t get another pay cheque in.”

Robert Thompson, 28, was a multi-skilled technician and line operative.

The former joiner was sent to work for Wrightbus in England just a day before it entered administration.

He had to fund his return and living expenses from his own pocket.

Mr Thompson said: “Someone is bound to have known this was coming, why send us?

“We have been assured they did not know.”

He expressed optimism about the prospect of a deal.

“I loved the firm and the job I was doing, it was a good company to work for.

“Going from building sites into that I did not think I would gel but I loved it, the guys I worked with.

“It has not really sunk in yet.

“I am angry, upset, disappointed, but still hopeful that something can be reached over the next couple of weeks.”

TUV leader Jim Allister, speaking after what he described as a “very extensive meeting” with the administrator, described the situation as “pretty grim” but “retrievable” for “a substantial number” of jobs.

“It seems to be there are three reasons, from what the administrator tells us, as to why the anticipated deals of last week fell apart,” Mr Allister said.

He said the extent of debt owed to suppliers, issues around land ownership, and concerns that the “order book might diminish” would each need to be addressed.

“I believe government could help by underwriting, to a significant degree, the moneys owed to those legacy creditors,” he said.

“The second difficulty that caused the failure of the buyout deals was the issue pertaining to the land and the ownership of it. That’s something which needs to be addressed.”

He added: “It’s not without hope.”