Unite warns of lasting reputational damage as Sport Di...

Unite warns of lasting reputational damage as Sport Direct profits fall

07 July 2016

Britain’s largest union, Unite, warned that the ‘shameful’ work practices of employment agencies Transline and The Best Connection, were causing irreparable harm to the reputation of Sports Direct and lasting damage to its profits today (Thursday 7 July).

The warning over the employment agencies used by Sports Direct at its Shirebrook warehouse came as the controversial retailer released its latest annual results today showing a fall in profits of 8.4 per cent to £275.2 million.

The retailer’s financial results come at the end of a torrid financial year, which has seen its share price plunge by over 60 per cent and its majority shareholder, Mike Ashley, hauled in front of the House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills select committee and grilled over poor employment practices at Sports Direct. 

Unite, which has been leading the campaign against ‘Victorian’ work practices at Sports Direct urged the firm to cancel its contracts with Transline and The Best Connection at Shirebrook and move workers on to permanent contracts to avoid further reputational damage. 

The union also called for the government to back the MP Louise Haigh’s private members bill, to extend the remit of Gangmasters Licencing Authority (GLA) to stamp out abuses by employment agencies right across the economy. 

Commenting, Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “It is clear that shameful work practices have not only battered Sports Direct’s reputation, but are seriously harming its profits and share price. 

“The ‘Victorian’ employment practices of Transline and The Best Connection at Sports Direct’s warehouse would shame the pages of a Dickens novel and should have no place in 21st Century Britain. 

“Unless Sports Direct severs ties with these employment agencies and moves to put workers on permanent contracts, then it risks further damage to its beleaguered reputation and profits. 

“We urge the government to take action too and protect the good name of British business by backing Louise Haigh MP’s private members bill to extend the remit of the Gangmasters Licencing Authority to cover all sectors in the economy.

“It is incomprehensible that an employment agency deemed unfit and barred from operating in one sector of the economy can be allowed to carry on using the same employment practices in another part of the economy unchecked.”

‘Lifting the lid’ on ‘Victorian’ work practices during evidence to the House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills select committee, Unite revealed that the employment agency  Transline had been stripped by the GLA of its licence after being deemed unfit to operate in the food and agriculture industry in 2014.

Unite also revealed that many agency workers employed by Sports Direct through Transline at Shirebrook are receiving their wages through pre-paid debit cards. 

Costing £10 to get, workers are charged £10 a month in ‘administrative fees’ for the card, as well as 75 pence for cash withdrawals. During the hearing, it also emerged that The Best Connection was charging workers a fee of over £2.45 for ‘insurance services’ straight from their weekly wages with no explanation.


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.