Government figures naming and shaming 260 employers who have dodged paying 16,000 workers minimum wage rates are the ‘tip of the iceberg’ and show it pays to be a member of Unite, the UK’s largest union said today (Friday 8 December).
Just under one million of the £1.7 million in back pay identified by the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy was thanks to Unite’s campaign exposing ‘Victorian’ work practices at Sports Direct’s Shirebrook warehouse in Derbyshire.
Occupying top spot among firms forced to pay back pay for non-payment of minimum wage rates was employment agency The Best Connection, which supplies workers to Sports Direct’s Shirebrook warehouse. In second was the agency Transline, which was also embroiled in scandal at the retailer and since gone bust, while in fourth place was Sports Direct itself (see notes).
Commenting Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “These figures show it pays to be a member of Unite and underlines the importance of campaigning trade unions who tackle abusive employers.
“If it hadn’t been for Unite’s campaign to expose ‘Victorian’ work practices at Sports Direct, then the government’s name and shame list of non-payment of minimum wage rates would have looked very different.
“The abusive work practices and non-payment of the minimum wage at Sports Direct would be continuing to this day. Instead thousands of workers have got back pay totalling just under £1 million thanks to Unite. That’s over half the total money secured in back pay in the figures the government quotes.
“Scandalously though, some long serving agency workers at Sports Direct are still owed a portion of their back pay, raising serious questions about how serious government ministers are about enforcement. The government needs to sort it out and make Sports Direct take full responsibility.
“With insecure and precarious work on the rise, the figures released by the government are just the tip of the iceberg with bad bosses ripping workers off in the shadows away from the public glare.
“While the government talks tough, but doesn’t act tough, the best defence for workers against bad bosses and non-payment of the minimum wage is to join Unite.”
For further information please contact the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065 or 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.
Top five employers in the government’s name and shame list are:
1. The Best Connection Group Limited, Bromsgrove B61, failed to pay £469,273.83 to 2558 workers.
2. Qualitycourse Limited trading as Transline Group, Calderdale HD6, failed to pay £310,302.12 to 1421 workers.
3. Primark Stores Limited, Reading RG1, failed to pay £231,973.12 to 9735 workers.
4. SportsDirect.com Retail Limited, Bolsover NG20, failed to pay £167,036.24 to 383 workers.
5. Edward Mackay Contractor Ltd, Highland KW9, failed to pay £51,403.65 to 4 workers.