Wanted: Mike Ashley – Is this high noon for Sports Direct?
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.
— Unite the union (@unitetheunion) March 22, 2016