Accessible vehicle manufacturer Nu-Track has ceased trading with the loss of around 65 jobs. The Ballymena business has blamed difficulties with customer payments for the closure while also citing pressure on costs and supply chain difficulties.
Unite the Union Ireland says it received correspondence from Nu-Track on 28 September confirming that the company has been placed into administration. A letter to staff, thought to be from sole Director Rob Shiels, explains that an insolvency practitioner was expected to be named at around the same time.
The business was for some time owned by former Wrightbus proprietor Jeff Wright, although he is shown on the Companies House website as having relinquished his position as a person with significant control on 1 June. A transfer of knowledge and experience from Wrightbus early in Mr Wright’s ownership saw Nu-Track’s range expand considerably.
Nu-Track has long been associated with the supply of school buses to the Education Authority of Northern Ireland (EANI), with vehicles most recently built on front-engined chassis in a variety of size classes. It has also produced mobile libraries and horseboxes.
A statement to the Belfast News Letter and the Belfast Telegraph, but not thus far to routeone, notes that the business had made “every effort” to avoid closure. However, Nu-Track claims that during 2021, it committed to build over 130 vehicles “for a local client” – thought to be EANI – which “withdrew” after approximately 70 of them had been delivered. That left Nu-Track with a substantial debt that it is “now forced to pursue in the courts.”
The statement further attacks public sector customers by alleging they were unwilling to make any payment ahead of vehicle delivery, which placed “an unreasonable strain” on cash flow at the manufacturer. It says that the 130-unit order could not be fulfilled without customer funding and that base vehicles were removed, “bringing an end to our shop floor production.”
Unite has called the closure “another jobs blow” for the Ballymena area.
It has called for urgent clarification of the identity of administrators “with the aim of ensuring that our members receive the fullest possible compensation if we cannot avoid job losses.”
Unite says its objective “is to defend this manufacturing capacity and as many jobs as we can,” although the letter to staff from Mr Shiels says that all wages and holiday pay would be transferred and that “redundancy pay is owing to those employees that are applicable [sic].”
The Belfast News Letter reports that Nu-Track claims it has witnessed “unhelpful and damaging interference” from union officials in the past but that a meeting has already been held where concerns were discussed “openly and respectfully.”
Mr Shiels was appointed a Director of Nu-Track in March 2019. Since 30 June, he has also been sole Director and shareholder of Ulster Industries (Manufacturing). That undertaking was incorporated on the same date and is registered to the Ballymena address of Nu-Track. The Companies House website shows that the nature of its business is “the manufacture of bodies (coachwork) for motor vehicles (except caravans).”