Guest Contributor: Donald Moore, chair, Rowlinson Knitwear
(Written on March 21, 2020)
We thought we would share our issues and also some positive messages from our colleagues in these most difficult times. At Rowlinson, and as an employee owned company, we are guided by our values of trust and care and by doing the best right thing. That makes some decisions easier to make for the good of everyone we work with; our colleagues, suppliers and our customers, mainly hundreds of independent retailers.
It seems so long ago when we briefed our first phase to everyone which we called 'Be sensible' which seemed obvious to pay more attention to hygiene, we gave everyone hand sanitisers, tissues and asked everyone to be separate. We also briefed what then became our second phase which we called 'Essential only'. This was that everyone that could would work from home and luckily our first test was successful. We split our operational teams who work in the warehouse and on machines into two; an early shift and late shift. We also said we would cancel all non essential spending and look for credit from suppliers although this buying remains intact. We also talked about sacrifice and we would look for pay cuts across the company rather than layoffs. We briefed this stage by video; the first of many to everyone using our Slack channel. We also said that orders may be a fraction of what we would expect and that we had approached our bank for help.
The next change was to announce pay cuts and our plans for our vulnerable people. As you might expect the pay cuts ranged from 50% to highest earners to 10% for those earning more than £21k – those earning less would not have their pay reduced. We also had difficult conversations with the people we classed as vulnerable saying they would need to keep away from work and be paid a lower amount. The feedback from colleagues was amazing!
There is no company I would rather work for during the crisis”
Not an easy message to watch but much harder I imagine to deliver. I know the company will look after us to the best of it’s ability and I am more than happy to help out in whichever way I can”
Tough message to deliver. We're all in this together. Team Rowlinson. Love to all”
So glad I joined Team Rowlinson❤️”
Also to say a huge thank you for all your support, by phone, email, text and on slack to me Neil and Nic. We do feel overwhelmed at times and it’s reassuring to know that we have such support. It’s been amazing! Stay safe everyone and we are all trying our best in difficult circumstances. Thank you”
Great message again Nic. It’s more than a place to work for me, it’s family. Happy to give up holiday days or whatever is needed. Great we’re looking at the positives on the other side. Too much gloom elsewhere so nice to hear a bit of positivity”
Agreed on the holidays (as other suggested) happy to give mine up it’s not as if we won't have had any time off this year.🙂 Thanks for the update Nic, made me feel emotional just listening to it ❤️”
More than happy to sacrifice as many holidays as needed. I feel so blessed to be part of such a fantastic family”
Thank you so much Ms. Nicola. Though we are offshore and condition in Bangladesh is not good as well but the company is trying to reach out just to know if we are well. Mr. Ken and Mr. Neil is regularly catching up with us. Every time I watch your video update and Mr. Donald’s update I feel emotional, thankful, grateful and proud that I am working In Rowlinson that you don’t feel like an employee only but a family. May this crisis ends soon. Keep safe everyone. Love from Bangladesh ❤️"
That’s just a sample from everyone who commented in a similar way which makes us all feel proud. Even better is that all our people are helping each other by checking in and sharing details of how best to get through with wellbeing and tips for entertaining children. Our next phase will be much more difficult as trading conditions subside but made so much easier with the government announcements recently.
Finally, and the timing was perfect, we are so grateful with the mental health training that around 40 of our colleagues had delivered by the Business Growth Hub. Everyone learned so much and if ever there was a need to consider mental health and resilience it’s now! Thank you very much.
UPDATE: Written on March 26, 2020
So much has happened in the past few days; we learned about furloughing and the superb and necessary government initiatives to protect pay and business loans.
Unfortunately, 75% of our colleagues have been furloughed this week as our customers are closed for business. All our furloughed people will receive half the difference between the furloughed amount and their monthly pay; for most people that is 90% of their usual pay. The leaders are working but on an average of half pay which we had set out previously. One unintended consequence is that a few of our colleagues have volunteered for NHS duties which is brilliant. It was sad but right that we furloughed everyone who uses public transport and better for their health and social distancing for everyone, we also furloughed people we felt were vulnerable.
The morale is fantastic as we send a video from the leadership every couple of days and everyone is helping each other to keep spirits high. We are checking in with everyone especially those who need more reassurance and help. We were also really pleased to let everyone know that our request for a high temporary overdraft was approved by our bank HSBC today and lucky that we asked for that before the government announcement on loans.
So spirits are surprisingly high considering the events of the past few days, though it seems like months! We have planned and suggested that the near lockdown could move to total lockdown and that it could last three months. That’s what we think, and it’s better for us all to prepare for worse news as the death rates escalate and irresponsible individuals continue to ignore social distancing and sensible food buying.
Finally, we consider that we will all be defined by what we do and how we do it now, for a generation. We will look back knowing we did the right thing for our colleagues, our customers and our suppliers – who continue to be paid fully on time and with no cancelled orders. That’s something we are all proud of and the opposite of some disgraceful examples in the media.
We are still overwhelmed but surprisingly less than we were…
Rowlinson Knitwear are a Member of the Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter. They produce durable garments suitable for corporate branding and personalisation for schools and clubs. Rowlinson Knitwear’s mantra has always been to care about how they do business – including ethical standards and how they interact with their suppliers and customers, and also how they care about each other.
Whether they’re manufacturing safe, high quality clothing, caring for all colleagues and workers in overseas operations or reducing their environmental impact, Rowlinson Knitwear care deeply about their actions. As an employee owned business, they strive to put their values at the heart of everything they do.