Ministers urged to back Sports Direct probe amid '...

Ministers urged to back Sports Direct probe amid ‘culture of fear’

15 December 2015

Britain’s largest union, Unite has today (Tuesday 15 December) written to employment minister Nick Boles MP calling on him to back a HMRC inquiry into Sports Direct as the controversy over non-payment of the minimum wage and ‘Victorian’ work practices at the retailer deepens.

The letter which follows yesterday’s urgent question in parliament on the non-payment of the minimum wage at Sports Direct, comes ahead of tomorrow’s (Wednesday 16 December) Unite parliamentary briefing for MPs on the work practices at the retailer’s Shirebrook warehouse. Unite will be asking MPs to back calls for HMRC to investigate Sports Direct. 

In the letter, Unite’s assistant general secretary Steve Turner highlights Nick Boles’ response to the MP, Chuka Umunna’s urgent question, in which the employment minister said that: “HMRC is entitled to conduct targeted enforcement activity in sectors of concern, so it is entirely open to HMRC to investigate proactively in sectors where it feels that breaches may be in evidence.”

Steve Turner then goes on to urge Nick Boles to: “Work with relevant ministerial colleagues to ensure that HMRC investigates the non-payment of the minimum wage at Sports Direct as a matter of urgency.” 

Commenting Unite assistant general secretary said: “Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct has achieved a rare thing in uniting the Institute of Directors, Unite, MPs and major investors like Crispin Odey in their condemnation of Sports Direct’s employment practices and corporate governance.

“We would urge Nick Boles and his ministerial colleagues to heed growing concerns over non-payment of the minimum wage at Sports Direct and order HMRC to investigate as a matter of priority.

“The culture of fear at Sport Direct’s Shirebrook depot is more akin to a ‘Dickensian’ 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. 

“With Sports Direct standing accused of being a ‘stain on British business’, a failure to act by the board risks further reputational damage and will only serve to deepen the growing unease among investors.”


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.