A Message from Chris Smallwood, Owner of Anchor Removals Ltd.
“It is unanimously accepted in a civilised world that to show respect to other people is only common decency, so why is it some employers feel the need to treat their employees badly. In my experience our industry is one of the worst purveyors of bad employment practices – it has to change and we have to lead by example!”
– Chris Smallwood MD Anchor Removals Ltd
My name is Chris Smallwood and I am the Owner of Anchor Removals Ltd, a small family removals business. I came from a low earning family, in a poor area, with a very strong working-class, socialist upbringing. I left school in the 1980s Thatcher era of high unemployment, with only a couple of qualifications, and came into the furniture moving industry as a last resort. Ever since, I have been driven by wanting to change the face of the industry – even as a young trainee operative. Lifting furniture up and downstairs, loading it safely onto lorries, and making sure everything is protected, is a job of great physical demands and skill, yet often looked down on by the public and unappreciated by their own employers. I was struck by the lack of good (or most of the time, any) training for such a physical and demanding job, with no skills or formal manual handling training, leading to serious and persistent back injuries for many, including myself, that inhibits me to this day. I was also struck by the poor wages and conditions for workers within the industry, and with the way it operated as such a traditional industry, caught in the 1970s style conflicts of worker versus management mentality. Zero hours or temporary short term contracts are rife to this day. Having progressed through the ranks I took over Anchor Removals in 2008, using my own bad experiences as a guide to how not run a business. I returned to my core beliefs of Social Justice and compassion to create a working environment that I hope will be the envy of the industry. My goal is to show that by engaging and rewarding your staff, it is not only good for business, but is good for the customer, the community and the environment, whilst showing that we can make a profit.
In 2008 we had:
1 Female employee (also a director)
2 7.5 tonne high emission trucks
1 3.5 tonne box van
Our operatives earned:
zero hours contract
Overnight subsistence for working away was £10 per night!
No uniform, no safety footwear, no high visibility jackets
Poor health and safety regime including no training
So no work – no pay, and when you are paid, it is not good money – remember not enough to make ends meet! We did what we could to survive but the work output was poor and the standard at best was good to average. Our fleet of vehicles were old and in poor condition, with no sleeping accommodation for our teams, forcing them to sleep in the back of the vehicle often in freezing conditions.
So what have we got to shout about?
Fast forward to 2016…
12 Employees – fully trained
2 Female employees
6 Employees with more than 6 years service
2 18 tonne Euro V low emission vehicles
1 10 tonne Euro IV low emission vehicle
1 3.0 tonne Euro V1 low emission vehicle
All large vehicles have sleeping accommodation, with heating and electricity supply
Full time 40 hours contracts
“real” Living Wage minimum of £8.45 per hour
NO to zero hours contracts
£25 night out subsistence
And that’s not all…
5 employees taken out of the “black economy”
7 employees taken out of unemployment
3 offenders rehabilitated into full-time work
We care too:
Full uniform including safety footwear and high visibility jackets
Warm winter wear for those horrible wet days!!
Regular meetings to discuss successes and issues
Manual handling and fire training every 3 years
Full induction training for all new employees
Full sickness and accident insurance
Pensions for all before our staging date
Confidential anti Bullying helpline
Counselling confidential helpline
Is that it?
Nope there’s more
Over 1000 hours to community projects – Boothstown FC, Reubens Retreat, Eat Green
Over 500 hours to Charities and good causes – Reubens Retreat, Eat Green, Francis House Children’s Hospice
Donations of over £2000 to charity – Reuben’s Retreat, The Christie, Francis House Children’s Hospice
Our staff are engaged with the whole idea…
Including a day out at Reuben’s Retreat
And we even had fun at Buille Hill Park in 2016 with It’s a Knockout raising £1000 for the Christie.
The idea is to give the whole company a feel good factor, making employees feel valued and giving our customers the opportunity to make a difference to ordinary people’s lives.
Poverty, nicotine and alcohol abuse, drug addiction, mental and physical illness are traits which often go hand in hand and are strongly associated with our industry with little support or prospect of resolution. These issues affect every company and with continued government cuts, industry leaders need to set an example for others to follow by providing support for their employees. We see it as a sensible economic idea, by offering this support we can reduce absenteeism, improve productivity, prevent suicide and lead to a positive impact on both society and the costs associated with managing the outcomes. Prevention is better than cure – the public want to make a difference and “fair trade” has provided evidence as such.
We would very much like to
Reduce poverty by continuing to be a “real” living wage employer
Promotion from within – giving our team the opportunity to be shareholders and have a voice on the board. This reduces poverty and creates an inclusive feel to the business encouraging full engagement by all our employees!
Offer occupational therapy – we already have confidential counselling helplines and anti-bullying support helplines, but occupational therapy will provide addiction prevention, physical support and counselling to prevent or treat mental illness.
This, in turn, will help provide more long term employees and reduce staff turnover.
Set in place an apprenticeship scheme to play our part in reducing youth unemployment.
We are seeking ethnic and gender diversity to reflect our community, our aim is to have an ethnic minority employee (male or female) as an operative and promote gender neutral recruitment policies.
Continue to invest in new equipment to reduce the need for physical handling where possible – reducing the risk of injury.
Ongoing training to help our teams understand and better assess the hazards they face and how to reduce the risk of injury.
“Getting public support for us would give us the ability to show our industry that looking after your employees’ works and would help us to change our industry forever” It all starts with convincing our co-operative Britannia one small cog succeeds the whole bigger cog follows!!
We are trying so hard to do the right thing and be a good employer, but getting the message over to the public is a huge challenge. Having public support is the perfect platform to promote all the good things we are doing.
Show our industry that you can be a good employer AND be successful
Change the public perception of our industry
Greater publicity for the right reasons
Provide a profile that doing good is good for business
Highlight the industry as a good option for school leavers as a career
Very often children (like I did) leave school feeling they are failures, having not achieved good exam grades. We want to go into schools like Walkden High (our local school) to tell children that whilst exams are important, if you don’t achieve grades there are still great opportunities for employment that don’t require high qualification standards.
At Anchor Removals, we have a real sense of pride and achievement because we are a team and we share all our achievements together just as we share the burden of issues together!
Furniture Removals, Storage, Shipping and Packing Specialists
Office and Commercial
Antiquities and Pianos
Packing crate rentals
Secure document destruction
Although we pay great wages, our team have historical issues to deal with from either previously working in the black economy or from being unemployed. They can’t be resolved overnight and it often means they are dealing with debt from unorthodox sources such as loan sharks. As a result, we lend money to our employees interest-free, with manageable repayment terms. This compassionate approach removes the risk of spiralling debt and them entering into the poverty trap. So far this year we have provided over £4000 in loan payments to our employees.
“I have worked in the removal industry for over 15 years with three different companies. I put my heart and soul into my employment prior to Anchor Removals but and was left both financially and emotionally drained when the company I worked for made me redundant. Anchor Removals provide flexible working hours to avoid rush hour traffic which is both a health benefit and a smarter way of working. Never have I felt so appreciated and enjoy my job like I do at Anchor Removals Ltd. Chris’ passion for changing our industry is inspirational and you can’t help but get caught up and swept along with it.” – Ellen Clay