9th April 2020.
As the Covid-19 crisis continues, I wish to give an update on how the crisis is impacting the business and influencing our plans for a return-to-work.
As previously communicated, our challenge as a responsible employer, at this unprecedented time, is to preserve jobs, today and into the future, while providing a safe place of employment and meeting our customers’ requirements.
On Sat. 28th March we announced that that we would cease manufacturing temporarily, in line with the Government Guidelines to ‘stay at home’ and help curb the spread of the virus. The ‘lockdown’ announced was to expire on Easter Sunday, 12th April and we planned to return to work on Tuesday 14th April.
While the Government has not yet announced an extension to the ‘lockdown’, we believe this will happen this weekend as the peak impact in terms of confirmed cases and deaths is now forecast to occur in the next 10 days or so. For this reason, we have decided to extend the shutdown by one more week, to Monday April 20th. There will then be a phased return to work for all employees over the two week period commencing April 20th.
Full details in the next section.
The HSE believes that the ‘stay-at-home’ policy during this critical period will play a significant role in limiting the spread of the virus, enabling hospitals to cope with the surge at Intensive Care and ultimately saving lives. We felt it would be an inappropriate time to return to work on 14th April, as originally planned
The new return date is Monday 20th April. This is a 1-week extension to the current shutdown.
Wages have already been paid 100% for the 2 weeks ending this Friday 10th April and again, for the additional week, no one will be ‘out of pocket’. Wages will be covered in full.
The June Holiday Week is being brought forward to April, and we will then commence a phased return to work as follows:
- 50% of employees will return week commencing April 20th and will take paid holidays for the week of April 27th.
- The other 50% of employees will take paid holidays for the week of April 20th and return week commencing April 27th
We will be in touch next week with details of which week we will be requesting you return to work.
This means that for the duration of the 3-week Covid-19 imposed shutdown
- No jobs have been lost
- No one will be ‘out of pocket’
[Note: The Company did not participate in the Covid-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme.]
And we will have played our part in helping the ‘flatten the curve’ and save lives.
We trust that this is satisfactory to everyone and thank you for your continued understanding for what remains an evolving situation.
Maintaining the Business During the Extended Production Shutdown
While Manufacturing is temporarily suspended, the business must be maintained and all non-production personnel are continuing to work, some remotely from home and some from the factory.
As mentioned earlier, next week, a number of production people may be called on to come in to manufacture products that are out of stock and urgently needed in the different markets. Your ongoing understanding and cooperation is appreciated.
Your Supervisor will be in contact with you, if you are required to come in next week.
There will be a reduced canteen service.
‘Essential Business’ Classification
Our activity, as a manufacturer of ‘life safety devices’ means we are officially classified as an ‘essential’ business within the Government definition. This is very significant and enables us to manufacture even during the current ‘lockdown’.
Essentially, we are viewed as supplying the Health and Social Services sectors, and continuity of supply is essential. Both the HSE in Ireland and NHS in UK are customers and we have been called upon in the past two weeks to supply both smoke and CO alarms to both Health Authorities.
Safe Working Environment
In the factory, we are operating in a ‘Controlled Environment’ to HSE Guidelines, assuring the Health and Safety of all employees.
The ‘New Norms’ of frequent hand-washing, regular sanitizing of hands, maintaining physical /social distancing have now been in operation for several weeks.
And we have used the shutdown of the past two weeks to make further improvements.
- Physical Distancing—–in cells, canteen and corridors
- Heat sensing cameras installed on all entrances
The ‘New Norms’ are here for the long term and we must all get used to them.
Preservation of Jobs
At the end of February, only a few short weeks ago, unemployment in this country stood at 170,000 and under 5%, which effectively was close to full employment. Today, there are in excess of 700,000 people unemployed, as a result of the Covid-19 ‘lockdown’ and businesses closing. Many of these businesses, unfortunately, will never again open and high unemployment levels will extend possibly for years to come. The impact on people’s livelihoods is horrendous.
Few, if any businesses, worldwide, have remained untouched by the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic. And Ei is no exception! Most of our major markets have been impacted as all building work has ceased in UK and Ireland for example and smoke and CO alarms are not being installed.
Orders from UK and Ireland have been minimal this week. However, we believe this fall-off is temporary and the business will still be there to be fulfilled when this crisis ends. We hope to be very busy in the second half of the year, as delayed installation work catches up!
But many of our markets are not in total ‘lockdown’ and as a supplier to the Health and Social Care segments our products are still in demand, albeit at a significantly lower level. For example, we have been involved in supplying to the HSE in Ireland and NHS in UK in the past two weeks, as the Health Authorities set up emergency ‘field’ hospitals. And Tunstall, a Social Care Company in UK ran out of product this week and I’m delighted to say that several employees came in, at short notice, to manufacture these alarms. This is the true spirit of Ei. And while officially in shutdown, there will be other occasions in the next week when there will be a need to call in people to address specific shortages and I know we can count on you to respond to the call.
In summary, we are lucky to be involved in the sectors we are in and I am confident that there will be no long-term impact on jobs. And it is our attitude to Service during this crisis that will differentiate us and preserve our jobs.
2020 started off very strongly for Ei and we had record sales in the first quarter, ending in March. But as explained earlier, our business has been hit very significantly in the past few weeks, as a result of the ‘lockdowns’ throughout Europe. However, we believe the business is not lost and we will recover these sales in the second half of the year.
Germany has seen less of an impact and installation of alarms has continued but at a much-reduced level. There is a pent-up demand for the Ei6500-OMS remote inspection alarms and resumption of production is a priority. Project and Test Engineers have worked for the past two weeks on installing additional capacity for this alarm.
When we return to work, we will build stocks of products for all markets, in anticipation of a surge in demand later in the year.
While we are optimistic that no long- term damage will be done to our business, there are so many unknowns, with economies worldwide suffering major declines that there will be no certainties in the post-Covid-19 world.
No one knows when ‘lockdown’ restrictions will end and we’ll have to be very flexible in responding to the demands of the different markets, as countries begin to end restrictions at different times
Our service levels, during our manufacturing shutdown, will play a key part in how we come out of this crisis and hence next week some ‘pockets’ of production will be required.
With the Covid-19 ‘lockdowns’ throughout Europe, our orders have taken a heavy hit but we believe that the business is not lost and will be there to be fulfilled in the second half of the year. But we caution that there are no certainties in these unprecedented times. By taking a protracted temporary manufacturing shutdown we are playing our part in helping to curb the spread of this terrible virus. Very significantly, no jobs have been lost and no one has been ‘out of pocket’, with wages paid.
Right now, we plan a phased return to work commencing Mon. 20th April. We will be in touch next week with more details.
We will keep you up to date on any developments in the meantime.