By Jenness Mitchell & Gordon Chree
Workers at a bus manufacturer whose jobs are under threat said it is “not a good time” and are “hoping for the best” over the proposed cuts.
On Monday, Larbert-headquartered Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) announced 650 jobs are at risk of redundancy due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The firm, which is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of double-decker buses, was bought by Canada’s NFI Group last year for £320m.
However since lockdown orders for new buses have plummeted.
Despite making use of the Government’s relief schemes and cutting salaries, the firm said it must go through a process of restructuring to move to a “leaner, more flexible manufacturing model”.
As well as the Larbert base, the company also has a second plant in Falkirk alongside additional sites across the UK, employing thousands of staff.
Speaking to STV News, factory worker Mark Reid said: “Yeah, it’s not a good time ahead, and hopefully things will be alright.
“We’re just hoping for the best obviously.”
The company had been looking at a record year of sales before Covid-19 hit.
Paul Davies, managing director for Alexander Dennis, told STV News the company normally manufactures around 2500 buses a year, but orders have since dried up.
He said: “Demand for new buses has all but vaporised since Covid struck.
“Our customers, the bus operators, have seen ridership drop by almost 90%. That’s a huge impact on their finances, and clearly their priority moves away from capital expenditures to just merely surviving.”
A formal consultation is to begin in the coming weeks on the restructuring programme.
The changes at ADL are part of a wider restructuring programme announced by parent company NFI.
It is affecting sister companies in the US and Canada, along with the consolidation of the firm’s spare parts business in North America into NFI Parts.
Unite Scotland has pledged to fight for the jobs.
Alongside ADL, the union is also calling on the Prime Minister to deliver his promise of 4000 green buses and is urging the Scottish Government to support the “world class manufacturing bases” at Falkirk and Larbert.
Unite regional officer Willie Thomson told STV News: “We believe that with the support of its parent company, NFI, that Alexander Dennis is well-placed to support its workforce at this time.
“And when we meet with the company over the next few weeks, we will be fighting to save these jobs.”
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard described the company as a “jewel in the crown of Scottish manufacturing.
The MSP said: “There should be a consolidation of investment by the UK and the Scottish Government because this is a jewel in the crown of Scottish manufacturing and it’s important that we step in now, that governments take an interventionist approach, bring forward projects so that the jobs are retained.”
A spokesperson from the Scottish Government said it was working closely with ADL to explore all possibilities to support jobs in Scotland and minimise the impact of Covid-19.
The spokesperson added: “We stand ready to assist any staff affected should job losses take place.”