Wrightbus says it’s facing the loss of up to 95 workers due to “challenging market conditions” among both public and private customers.
The Ballymena firm is starting a consultation process for cutbacks, which could see 95 staff losing their jobs.
Stephen Kelly, chief executive of Manufacturing NI, said: “We have been warning for some time that there is a visible slowdown in capital investment, both public and private, which is impacting a number of sectors and most notably transportation.”
Wrightbus chairman, Mark Nodder, said that “along with the rest of the industry, is facing some very difficult conditions in its domestic market at present, with current order intake for new vehicles at relatively low levels”.
“In order that the business remains competitive in the long term, it is vital that we promptly take appropriate steps to align our production capacity to projected demand in the foreseeable future.”
DUP MP for North Antrim, Ian Paisley, said: “I am very disappointed by the news that 95 jobs are to be cut from the Wright Bus workforce. Obviously this will come as a blow to the local manufacturing sector.”
“I have been in discussions with the chief executive of the company and I understand the reasons behind this decision.”
“Looking forward, the company has considerably good prospects but order books must match the workforce. It is essential that in the future, government bus contracts start to favour local manufacturers so as to avoid such peaks and troughs in the production cycle.
“As usual, the workforce has demonstrated a resilience and a stoicism that one would expect, despite this devastating announcement. My thoughts are with those 95 workers who will be losing their jobs and who will feel this news most acutely.”
Mr Kelly added: “We have been warning for some time that there is a visible slowdown in capital investment, both public and private, which is impacting a number of sectors and most notably transportation.
“This is driven by both a reduction in government spending but also uncertainty within the UK economy given political events.
“Wrightbus is an extraordinary Northern Ireland success story who continually make large investments in innovation, workforce development and leadership.
“They will continue to be a success, but they and the rest of the manufacturing sector would benefit from a functioning local Executive and a bespoke manufacturing strategy which capitalises on the opportunity which exists to increase sales and employment.”
Mr Nodder said the company had “continued to invest in our product range so that it remains best in class in terms of fuel efficiency and environmental performance”.
“The company will therefore be well-positioned when market conditions improve,” he added.
“As a privately-owned business and one of the largest employers in Northern Ireland, we have not come to this decision lightly and it is done with a heavy heart.
“However, we operate in a dynamic marketplace with competition from around the globe and we must respond and react accordingly.
“We will naturally work with the union and employee representatives to ensure we manage the process in the most sympathetic way possible.”
The firm currently employs around 1,700 workers.
Vincent Taggart of the Northern Regional College said it had a “close and long-standing connections with Wrightbus in Ballymena through its engineering apprenticeship scheme, and the college delivers a range of bespoke business solutions to the firm”.
“Furthermore many of the current and previous staff at Wrightbus are alumni of Northern Regional College,” he said.
“Myself and the staff at Northern Regional College are fully committed to working in partnership with others to ensure those impacted by any decision to reduce staffing levels have opportunities for further training and to gain the necessary qualifications and skills to meet industry and personal development needs.”
Some of the biggest jobs blows to the Co Antrim have fallen on Ballymena, with the loss of 800 jobs at the JTI cigarette factory and 860 at the Michelin tyre plant in the last year.
Last month, it was revealed Kilroot power station in Carrickfergus will close in May with the loss of around 240 jobs, while its sister station at Ballylumford will see around 30 staff cut.
And last week around 440 job losses emerged in the space of one day. Williams Industrial Services (WIS), which employed 145 people in Mallusk, has been put into administration.
Energy firm NIE Networks has also said it is cutting 90 jobs.
And oil services firm Schlumberger is going ahead with the closure of its site, which employs 205 people in Newtownabbey.