Over the past decade, the Car Wash Association has made huge inroads into regulating the hand washes that continue to blight our environment, fail to contribute to the country and bring car washing into disrepute. While there have been some success stories, generally the lack of regulatory pressure has allowed huge growth.
We know that underneath many of these places lurks a dark world of crime and menace and some of the workers are treated appallingly with little real chance of escape or a legitimate future working in our country. The huge influx of migrants that have entered the country legally and illegally over the past decade has resulted directly in the huge growth of the hand car wash industry.
Ever since the gangmaster regime was highlighted with the Morecambe Bay cockling disaster of 2004, undocumented migrant workers have been part of our society. Recently highlighted on television by Al Jazeera, the modern slave trade exists within the hand car wash sector and occurs in, of all places in the south of England, Canterbury! This, of course, is just one example of the influence criminals have on our society, and it is happening all over the country. It’s not just the conditions of work and their sub-standard accommodation, but the terrible business practice that accompanies it.
So who should be protecting these poor workers? Central government? Local government? Both have a part to play, though it is the consumer that can drive these practices out of our country. The hand washing sector should be operating at the top end of our sector, providing the very best finish both inside and out, with the cost reflecting this. The self jet wash, rollover and tunnel wash, operating at lower costs, should be able to flourish with their own quality, high-speed offerings.
These slavery issues go to the heart of what has been our underlying argument for all these years. A business with similar costs to ourselves will have to price its products accordingly. It’s these issues that resonate with the buying public more so than unseen environmental ones. As we move to a society of higher paid manual workers, the areas for unscrupulous bosses to operate in will be reduced. In the meantime, the cheap hand car wash will survive all the time it has customers ignorant of the truth.