The MP for Ashfield, Gloria De Piero and Bolsover MP Dennis Skinner, today (Friday 8 January) called on under fire Sports Direct to end abusive work practices at its warehouse in Shirebrook, Derbyshire by putting agency workers on permanent contracts and paying the ‘real’ living wage.
The call by the MPs, who have constituents working at the depot, comes on the same day as Sports Direct issued a profits warning and follows a briefing held today in Mansfield by Britain’s largest union, Unite.
Discussing continuing concerns over ‘Dickensian’ work practices at Sports Direct’s Shirebrook depot, the briefing heard that a review by billionaire Mike Ashley into the treatment of agency workers, lacked independence and risked being viewed as a sham without trade union involvement.
Mike Ashley’s review follows an ongoing campaign by Unite which represents permanent workers at the retailer’s Shirebrook depot and head office. A recent Guardian investigation found that extra, unpaid time taken for "rigorous" compulsory searches meant workers were paid less than the minimum wage leading to calls for a HMRC investigation.
Commenting Unite regional officer Luke Primarolo said: “Sports Direct needs to heed the call from MPs to end abusive work practices by putting agency workers on permanent contracts and paying the proper living wage.
“Today’s profit warning shows fundamental problems remain at Sports Direct from the use of zero hours contracts in its stores through to the treatment of agency workers at its main warehouse in Shirebrook.
“A continued failure by Mike Ashley to involve Unite and other independent bodies in his review of agency workers runs the risk of it being seen as a whitewash and adding to the growing unease of customers and the City.
“If Mike Ashley is to restore investor confidence and realise his promise of becoming a model employer, then he needs to start working with Unite to restore dignity to the workplace.”
Gloria De Piero MP for Ashfield said: "I'll never forget my constituent Liga Shaw coming to see to tell me about her Dad, Guntars Zarins, who worked at the warehouse in Shirebrook.
“Mr Zarins collapsed with a blood clot on his brain and is now in wheelchair because he was too scared to phone in sick in case he got a mark against his name.
“Working practices like this have no place in this day and age. Michael Ashley should hang is head and shame over what has gone on at his firm under his watch."
Working conditions at the depot have been likened to a ‘gulag’ and are underpinned by a ‘six strikes and you’re out’ disciplinary procedure. Under the procedure, agency workers can get ‘strikes’ for taking too long in the toilet, talking too much or even having time off for sickness.
A Channel 4 Dispatches investigation in 2015 exposed a workforce in constant fear of losing their jobs with staff in the Shirebrook warehouse ‘named and shamed’ over a tannoy for not working fast enough. A separate BBC investigation found that ambulances were called to Shirebrook site more than 80 times in two years.
Denis Skinner MP is available for media comment and can be contacted on 01773 581027.
For further information please contact Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869.
Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1
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.