Unite backs calls by the City and urges Sports Direct ...

Unite backs calls by the City and urges Sports Direct to confront ‘endemic abuses’

25 August 2016

Britain’s largest union, Unite called on Sports Direct to confront ‘endemic abuses’ within its labour supply agencies and move long standing agency workers onto direct, permanent contracts today (Thursday 25 August) as it backed demands from the Investor Forum for a thorough independent review of the retailer.

The call comes amid a chorus of concern from the City, politicians and Unite over the company’s employment practices and corporate governance ahead of its annual general meeting on 7 September.

Unite, which has been leading a campaign against ‘Victorian’ work practices at Sports Direct, is urging shareholders to back a resolution at the AGM for an independent review into work practices. 

The union questions the independence of a review due to be published by lawyers acting for Sports Direct warning that it will do little to repair confidence in the retailer’s battered reputation.

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “Sports Direct has achieved a rare feat in uniting the City, politicians and Unite in the need to address deep seated problems with its work practices and corporate governance.

“The only way the Sports Direct board will begin to restore confidence and bring stability to the retailer is by confronting the endemic abuses within its employment agencies by moving long standing agency workers onto direct, permanent contracts and weaning itself off zero hours contracts.

“The board need to be clear that the actions and behaviour of the agencies Transline and The Best Connection will continue to damage the retailer’s battered reputation unless they act.  

“The board also needs to recognise that there are serious question marks over both the independence and appropriateness of any review conducted either by the company itself or a legal firm which has given legal advice and representation to Sports Direct in the past. 

“Unite seriously questions whether either has the expertise to understand or address employee relations issues or the extent of cultural change needed at Sports Direct. 

“Unite will continue to engage positively and constructively with Sports Direct where possible and urges the retailer to continue dialogue with us to ensure Mike Ashley’s ambition of becoming an exemplar employer doesn’t remain a pipe dream.”

Transline and The Best Connection supply over 3,000 agency workers to work for Sports Direct in its Shirebrook warehouse. In 2014 Transline was stripped of its licence to supply labour to the food industry. 

Both Transline and The Best Connection were warned of being in contempt of parliament and lying when the BiS committee recently published its report into employment practices at Sports Direct.


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.