Unite tells Sports Direct to address worker abuses to ...

Unite tells Sports Direct to address worker abuses to halt share price slide

23 March 2016

Mike Ashley has nobody but himself to blame for Sports Direct ‘troubles’ and needs to address worker abuses by engaging with Unite, said Britain’s largest union.

Unite was responding to continued falls in Sports Direct’s share price today (Wednesday 23 March) following its latest profit warning issued to the London Stock Exchange.  

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “Mike Ashley has nobody to blame for this situation but himself, not MPs and certainly not Unite for exposing the realities of working for his company.  He has ignored all the warnings that consumers and investors walk away from companies which fail to tackle abuses in their supply chain and do not treat workers properly.  

“Shoppers are feeling uncomfortable with retail staff on zero hours, minimum wage contracts – no wonder that suppliers are thinking twice about putting premium brands on his shelves. This is what is taking its toll on the share price.

“But there is an opportunity to turn this around. Unite has offered to meet Mike Ashley wherever, whenever to address worker concerns and the abuses at his Shirebrook warehouses as well as in-store. 

“The opportunity is there for him to end completely unnecessary zero hours abuses in-store and the use of agency labour in his Shirebrook warehouse. Over 3,000 agency workers are employed by Sports Direct at Shirebrook through Transline and The Best Connection in conditions where they work in fear of a ‘six strikes and you’re out’ rule and face being named and shamed over a tannoy for not working hard enough.  

“Ending these ‘Victorian’ work practices would re-establish market confidence in the retailer’s corporate governance, give hope to a dedicated, undervalued workforce – and, crucially, could go a long way to restore customer faith in his products and calm MPs’ fears that something is well and truly amiss at his business.

“But if he carries on bulldozing his way to permanently bad PR, customers will vote with their feet.  He is putting workers’ jobs, as well as investors’ capital at risk by refusing to cooperate with those who simply want a fair deal for working people.”


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.