Sports Direct needs to stop paying lip service to improving ‘Victorian’ work practices and start working with Unite if it is to repair its battered reputation and return to the FTSE 100, Britain’s largest union said today (Wednesday 2 March).
The call comes as Sports Direct fell out the FTSE 100 today amid a six month share plunge which has seen shares in the retailer halve after a sustained campaign by Unite over ‘Draconian’ working conditions and a slew of criticism over the firm’s corporate governance.
Urging root and branch reform to restore investor and customer confidence, Unite called on Sports Direct to restore dignity in the workplace by directly employing agency workers supplied by Transline and the Best Connection.
The union, which represents permanent workers at the retailer’s Shirebrook headquarters and warehouse, warned that Mike Ashley’s review into the use of agency workers would be a whitewash if it didn’t address continuing concerns.
Over 3,000 agency workers are employed to work for Sports Direct at its Shirebrook warehouse where a recent Guardian investigation found working conditions likened to a ‘gulag’ and workers working in fear of a ‘six strikes and you’re out rule.’
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 the Shirebrook site more than 80 times in two years.
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “Sports Direct has become the poster boy for bad British business with its shady corporate governance and draconian working practices. As a result investors are turning their back on a company that brings with it a stench of abuse and malpractice.
“Its fall from the FTSE 100 is salutary warning to boardrooms across the UK and points to deep seated problems within the retailer. Sports Direct needs to heed the message being delivered by the City and fundamentally rethink its corporate governance and the way it treats its workforce.
“Paying lip service to reviewing employment practices and giving pitiful pay rises will not repair Sports Direct’s tarnished reputation or meet Mike Ashley’s promise of the retailer becoming a model employer.
“Sports Direct should be under no illusion. Unite will not stop campaigning until justice and dignity is secured in the workplace at Sports Direct. Only through root and branch reform and by working with Unite will Sports Direct begin to repair its battered share price and regain the confidence of customers and investors alike.”
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.