From the TUC

Wanted: Mike Ashley – Is this high noon for Sports Direct?

22 Mar 2016, By Guest

A showdown is brewing between billionaire Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley, and MPs investigating mistreatment of workers in his sportswear empire.

The BIS Select Committee have been trying to arrange a date for him to give evidence to them over allegations of widespread abuses at the firm. Ashley hasn’t been co-operative, so they’ve taken the unusual step of formally summonsing him to appear before them on 7 June.

MPs are keen to hear how Ashley’s internal review of working conditions for agency workers at Sports Direct is going. Last December, the firm was shamed in a Guardian undercover report into their Shirebrook warehouse, which found evidence of workers effectively paid less than the national minimum wage, and a draconian discipline policies that sees staff disciplined or fired for even minor occurrences.

Over 3,000 agency staff are employed by Sports Direct to work at the warehouse through two employment agencies called Transline and The Best Connection. Sports Direct has to accept that the treatment and care of these workers is their responsibility.

Sports Direct said they were so concerned by the allegations that Ashley would personally lead a review into workers’ terms and conditions (something that Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said had “the whiff of a pupil marking its own homework.”), but he’s since changed his stance somewhat, saying he will challenge the order and that the Committee only care “about the business of politics, while I actually care about the people at Sports Direct”.

Unite is the union for Sports Direct workers, and we hear every day direct from our members just how much Mike Ashley cares about his workers.

He cares so much about what they’re doing every minute of the day that Sports Direct track their every move – how fast they’re working, how long they spend in the loo – and shames them over a tannoy if they’re going too slow.

He cares so much about how comfortable his workers are that Sports Direct specify a list of 802 banned clothing brands for staff – and searches them down to their underwear (without pay) every shift.

And he cares so much about their work-life balance that Sports Direct keep 80% of their workers on zero-hours contracts, unable to plan their home and family lives from week to week.

Sports Direct is a hugely profitable company, and doesn’t need to subject their workers to such shameful practices. Latest figures show a 7.4% increase in gross profit to £1.155 billion. We must not allow them to get away with this unacceptable behaviour. Every worker has the right to be treated fairly and with respect in their workplace.

Unite, and our members working in Sports Direct want to see Mike Ashley appearing in London on the 7 June, and we want to see the government taking stronger action against Sports Direct.

It’s time for Ashley’s cowboy approach to running Sports Direct to stop.

3 Responses to Wanted: Mike Ashley – Is this high noon for Sports Direct?

  1. Cheryl Pidgeon
    Mar 23rd 2016, 6:22 am

    I work everyday with the workers from Sports Direct. They are truly decent, hardworking people. Please support this campaign to bring justice for them.

  2. Bob Illidge
    Mar 24th 2016, 3:33 pm

    It is shameful treatment and Dickensian in its sentiment – but it has been going on for many years. Why the publicity now? Has there been some reluctance to report because the bulk of the work force may not be UK citizens and that would be less of a scandal?
    Ashley’s hubris is clearly encouraged by other large employers increasing the zero hour contract and abusing apprentice schemes to avoid the additional cost of proper employment and return the excess to investors. Simples…

  3. John Wood

    John Wood
    Mar 25th 2016, 9:15 pm

    Hi Bob. Unite have been working there for a long while, with growing membership, and campaigning in local communities, and the pressure is building. Also things have come to a head with some of their poor management decisions – eg investor confidence has fallen in the wake of the USC collapse, when people were laid off by SMS. Both factors mean the media is picking up on it more now – especially after the Guardian expose at the end of last year. It’s only going to become a bigger story though unless Ashley and his board get their act together and start running the company, and their workplace relations, properly.