Carol singers will be targeting Sports Direct stores this Saturday (12 December) to highlight ‘scrooge like’ working practices amid calls for HM Revenue and Customs to investigate the non-payment of the national minimum wage at the retailer’s Shirebrook warehouse in Derbyshire.
The call from Britain’s largest union, Unite, and Saturday’s action in towns and cities across the UK, follows a Guardian investigation which found that extra, unpaid time taken for "rigorous" compulsory searches meant workers were paid less than the minimum wage.
Likening working conditions in the warehouse to a ‘gulag’, the investigation also found that workers were being docked wages for arriving as little as a minute late to work.
Singing specially adapted carols, faith groups, campaigners and Unite community members will be highlighting Sports Direct’s ‘Dickensian’ work practices outside stores in Mansfield, Leicester, Cambridge, Norwich, London, Truro, Bridgewater and North Wales.
The retailer has repeatedly come under fire for its use of low paid zero hours contracts and agency staff at the Shirebrook site where workers work in fear of a ‘six strikes and you’re out’ rule. Under the rule workers can receive a strike for a range or ‘offences’, including taking too long in the toilet, chatting too much or being off sick.
Commenting Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “ ‘Gulag’ working conditions have no place in 21st century Britain. The Sports Direct board should be ashamed that its workforce is treated in such an appalling way.
“Unpaid searches and the docking of pay are potentially illegal and a scandal that could cause Sports Direct reputational damage. We are currently consulting with lawyers and would encourage Sports Direct workers at Shirebrook to contact Unite to pursue potential legal action and damages.
“In the meantime HMRC should not shrink from doing the right thing and should investigate Sports Direct as a matter of priority.”
Unite regional officer Luke Primarolo added: “The majority of the workers at the Shirebrook depot are on precarious agency contracts, which while not illegal, make it virtually impossible for them to challenge unfair treatment for fear of losing their job.
“The culture of fear at Sport Direct’s Shirebrook depot is more akin to a workhouse than a FTSE 100 company. It needs to change with agency workers being given permanent contracts by Sports Direct and paid a decent wage.”
For further information please contact Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869.
Notes to editors:
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.