Hundreds of protesters rallied in front of the Wrightbus factory in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, on Friday (4 October) calling for the firm’s 1,200 jobs to be saved.
Nearly 500 people marched through the town demanding that the bus manufacturer’s owner Jeff Wright – who owns the plot the factory is situated on – “give us the land! Open the gate!”
Up to four bidders are prepared to buy the Wrightbus factory and re-employ staff, however it is understood that attempts to negotiate a deal have stalled because of Wright’s demands over the land.
Unite Wrightbus shop steward Callum Graham said, “The survival of Wrightbus is done to one thing and one thing only – the land which Jeff Wright owns.
“The bidders are prepared to open the gates as soon as and get the business up and running. Their valuation of the land and his valuation of it is the sticking point. I hope that common sense will prevail and he’ll sell it and we can move on.”
Workers from the recently saved Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, who spent nine weeks occupying the yard to prevent it being asset stripped after it went into administration, also attended the rally.
Workers stick together
Unite Harland and Wolff shop steward Joe Passmore told the rally that Wrightbus can be saved if workers stick together.
He said, “Our unity won our fight at Harland and Wolff. We stood together. You’ve everything to gain by standing as one. What politicians and the likes of Jeff Wright don’t like is bad publicity. If you put that bad publicity out there every single day and don’t let Wright forget what he’s done to you, he has to act.
“And the likes of Boris Johnson will come under pressure from all those politicians who are very afraid and have seen what the masses are doing and think ‘oh now they’re still here, it didn’t go away. We hoped this was going to die down.’ Don’t let it die down, believe in your fight and keep it going and you will win.”
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner told the rally that Unite will “leave no stone unturned in the fight to get those gates open”.
Turner said, “Jeff Wright is using the land as a bargaining chip with potential quite disgracefully. Our message to Jeff Wright is simple: Give us back the land, open up them gates and put our people back to work.”