TSA open letter to the Government on Covid-19 outbreak and its response to the textile care industry24 March 2020
19 March 2020
For the attention of The Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer
The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
I am writing this letter as CEO of the Textile Services Association (TSA) the trade association for the industrial and commercial laundry industry. For more than two weeks now, we have been ramping up our lobbying efforts with the belief that we are making good progress and were talking to the right people in Government.
So far, we have received loads of nice promises and some positive feedback, but unfortunately very little action.
Our industry operates on various fronts but all of them are essential to supporting the UK economy. Our invisible industry is made up of 28,000 hardworking team players who, if they ceased working, would certainly become extremely visible as many elements of the UK economy and healthcare would cease operations within 24 hrs.
To spell it out:
No clean bed linen, no towels, no clean scrubs, no clean uniforms, no specialist PPE cleaning = no patient care and no functioning NHS to fight the virus.
Twenty-five per cent of the TSA membership supports the healthcare sector, predominantly the NHS, and despite constant lobbying for ‘essential service provider’ status, we are still left in the dark. The NHS and other healthcare establishments are struggling for access to PPE and if the people washing infected linen are not frontline healthcare workers, then I don’t know who is.
Will healthcare laundry operators, the food industry and pharmaceutical garment laundries, from Monday, when schools are shut indefinitely, have to stay off work to look after their children? We need the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to add commercial laundries dealing with NHS and healthcare work to the ‘protected list’. TSA has asked for this, and again, we have had no response.
Therefore, we are having to register and administer our own essential worker scheme so we can continue to provide hygienically clean laundry to support the incredible work of the NHS (and other healthcare establishments, public and private sector alike).
However, as worrying as the NHS and healthcare situation is, 75% of commercial laundry workers operate within the hospitality laundry sector. In this sector, we are seeing a catastrophic drop in revenue lines of 80%-90%. While we have seen some Government response, it is totally inadequate to the scale of the issues.
To spell it out:
Failure to help hospitality laundries survive the downturn in business due to Covid-19 means many laundries servicing that sector may not be here to support it when we come out of the crisis.
In four weeks’ time, we most certainly will see all small hospitality laundries go out of business and even the very large PLC laundry companies simply may not be able to carry on without support.
Alastair McCrae, CEO of National Laundry Group (NLG) which represents many of the smaller independent laundries in the UK confirmed unequivocally: “If we do not get proper, urgent financial support from the Government, our laundries may not be here to support the sector when we come out of the crisis.”
The key elements the TSA calls on the Government to implement immediately are:
• Support to enable companies to reduce workforces up to 80% and potentially 100% at no cost to the employer.
The cost of temporarily laying staff off must be borne by the Government. If we do not do this, we will be forced to lay off people without pay or make them redundant which will prevent any long-term return to normal trading as we will not have access to our trained loyal staff. To ask employers to bear this cost is simply unfair and impossible to fund.
• Access to loans is great and we support it. But this needs to be interest free with a repayment holiday of at least 6-12 months.
The Government needs to understand that even when we get over the bridge (we are not sure how long is it yet), the ramp up will be steep and the progress slow and we will need cash to fund it. I think some support around bad debt with government underwriting 80% of debt due to business failure will be both necessary and welcome.
• Suspension of all Government imposed taxes: NI, VAT and corporation tax. These should be at the back of the queue.
• Business Rate Relief is a positive move and we obviously support it.
Having worked in the industry for more than 40 years before taking over the role as CEO of the TSA, I am privileged and honoured to lead such a great team of people. Over the past 12 months, there has been a real buoyancy with many new projects coming on line and a growth in the sector of over 5% of net revenues. How times have changed!
We are now fighting for our lives and without the Government’s support, there is no question the industry will not be able to recover.
The TSA calls on the Government to recognise the important role that commercial laundries play in the smooth running of the NHS and healthcare as a whole, especially now in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, and also to recognise the very real problems that laundries serving the hospitality sector are facing right now and to act accordingly and urgently to alleviate the situation.
Textile Services Association