The owners of Traralgon Dry Cleaners received an unexpected and disheartening letter days before Christmas.
The letter, from Fire Rescue Victoria received on December 21, informed owners Nathan and Sharlene Theissling that their dry cleaning services for fire stations in Moe, Morwell and Traralgon would no longer be required.
“From January 1, 2021 all personal protective clothing (PPC) used in FRV’s firefighting operations that contains fire rated materials will be laundered through a certified provider,” the letter read.
The FRV’s certified provider is located in Melbourne.
Traralgon Dry Cleaners has been laundering station uniforms for Traralgon fire station for four years, and in September took on the same services at Moe and Morwell.
Nathan Theissling said the local laundry service was not warned their contract would be terminated and was shocked when it received the letter.
“We called FRV when we received the letter because we thought it was a mistake, we have never cleaned PPE for the stations,” he said.
“We were told we can’t touch any laundry for the stations.
“FRV are just continuing to look after Melbourne … their letter to us did not pass the sniff test.
“We are qualified, we had to do schooling and are very regulated in the work that we do.”
Mr Theissling said the fire station contract helped them through a tough financial period during COVID last year.
“We were down to 25 per cent of our usual business at one point and the contract we had with the local stations brought in $1000 a month,” he said.
“It really kept us going. We have worked really hard to get where we are as a small locally-owned business and this was just a kick in the guts.
“It shouldn’t have happened at all, especially after the year we have had.”
Member for Morwell Russell Northe has made contact with the Minister for Police and Emergency Services “requesting her urgent intervention to reverse this decision and ask that the government understand the plight of many businesses in the Latrobe Valley”.
“I am in disbelief that at such a critical time the government would allow FRV to centralise its services to the detriment of regional and local businesses,” he said.
“We are in the middle of a pandemic it is plainly obvious that many businesses have struggled, so why on earth you would make it more difficult? It just defies logic.
“It is incumbent on the government to intervene.”
An FRV spokesperson said “from January 1, 2021 all personal protective clothing (PPC) used in FRV’s firefighting operations that contains fire rated materials will be laundered through a certified provider”.
“This ensures the protective capabilities of the garments are properly maintained, and that all contaminants FRV firefighters may be exposed to during emergency response are removed safely,” the spokesperson said.
“A centralised and certified service will ensure consistency, and provide the highest level of safety for the community who handle PPC, and our firefighters who rely on these garments to keep them safe.”