Global consistency from Sports Direct
One of the strangest aspects of globalisation is the way that some transnational corporations act very differently around the world. Companies that respect their workforce, work closely with unions, and pay decent wages in their home markets often behave appallingly in other countries. There are even companies that behave excessively badly at home, but are on their best behaviour when they’re out. Often it’s about differing cultural norms around the world, but sometimes it’s just inconsistency: evidence that top management have failed to imbue the entire corporation with the company values.
This inconsistency can cause problems for global union campaigns seeking to expose and change the bad corporate behaviour by applying pressure in the country where good behaviour is the norm. It challenges unions to put internationalist principles ahead of concentrating on putting the domestic membership’s interests first.
And then there’s Sports Direct. The company was founded by Newcastle United owner and one of Great Britain’s richest men Mike Ashley. It counts former EU Internal Market Commissioner & Irish Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy as a non-Executive Director, and it owns some of the most famous brand names in sport, like Dunlop Slazenger. And it’s a consistent bad boy at home and abroad.
The leading sports retailer in the UK by volume made over £200m in profits last year, so its bad behaviour cannot be excused by knife-edge survival economics. Earlier this year it bought fashion retail chain Republic which sources ready made garments from Bangladesh. In the last few weeks, Sports Direct has been in the news for employing the majority of its 24,000 UK staff on zero hours contracts, and consequentially excluding over 90% of its staff from a generous ‘staff bonus scheme’.
Can you guess whether Sports Direct or its subsidiary Republic have signed up to the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety?
Not content with ripping off its staff here in Britain with the latest thing in bad employment practices, Sports Direct has been one of the corporates most hostile to the global union-designed Accord.